Banks ‘lose millions to hackers’

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Published: Sunday 15th February 2015 by The News Editor

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A hacking ring has stolen up to one billion US dollars (£648m) from banks around the world in what would be one of the biggest banking breaches known, according to a cybersecurity firm.

The hackers have been active since at least the end of 2013 and infiltrated more than 100 banks in 30 countries, according to Russian security company Kaspersky Lab.

After gaining access to banks’ computers through phishing schemes and other methods, they lurk for months to learn the banks’ systems, taking screen shots and even video of employees using their computers, the company says.

Once the hackers become familiar with the banks’ operations, they use that knowledge to steal money without raising suspicions, programming ATMs to dispense money at specific times or setting up fake accounts and transferring money into them, according to Kaspersky. The report is set to be presented tomorrow at a security conference in Cancun, Mexico. It was first reported by The New York Times.

The hackers seem to limit their theft to about 10 million dollars (£6.48m) before moving on to another bank, part of the reason why the fraud was not detected earlier, Kaspersky principal security researcher Vicente Diaz said.

The attacks are unusual because they target the banks themselves rather than customers and their account information, Mr Diaz said.

The goal seems to be financial gain rather than espionage, he said.

“In this case they are not interested in information. They’re only interested in the money,” he said. “They’re flexible and quite aggressive and use any tool they find useful for doing whatever they want to do.”

Most of the targets have been in Russia, the US, Germany, China and Ukraine, although the attackers may be expanding throughout Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe, Kaspersky says. In one case, a bank lost 7.3 million dollars (£4.7m) through ATM fraud. In another case, a financial institution lost 10 million dollars by the attackers exploiting its online banking platform.

Kaspersky did not identify the banks and is still working with law-enforcement agencies to investigate the attacks, which the company says are ongoing.

The Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Centre, a nonprofit that alerts banks about hacking activity, said in a statement that its members received a briefing about the report in January.

“We cannot comment on individual actions our members have taken, but on balance we believe our members are taking appropriate actions to prevent and detect these kinds of attacks and minimise any effects on their customers,” the organisation said in a statement. “The report that Russian banks were the primary victims of these attacks may be a significant change in targeting strategy by Russian-speaking cybercriminals.”

Published: Sunday 15th February 2015 by The News Editor

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