Hackers steal $1B globally from banks

World Today

Image courtesy of Kaspersky Lab

A cybergang stole up to $1 billion from banks around the world using Carbanak malware, Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab said in a report. This breach is one of the biggest known to banking and the hackers have been active since at least the end of 2013, infiltrating more than 100 banks in 30 countries.

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 said.

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 was presented Monday at a security conference in Cancun, Mexico.

The hackers typically limit theft to about $10 million before moving on to another bank, part of the reason why the fraud was not detected earlier, Kaspersky principal security researcher Vicente Diaz said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. The attacks are unusual because they target the banks themselves rather than customers and their account information, Diaz said. The goal seems to be financial gain rather than espionage.

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

Infographic courtesy of Kaspersky Lab

Infographic courtesy of Kaspersky Lab

Most of the targets have been in Russia, the U.S., Germany, China and the 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 through ATM fraud. In another case, a financial institution lost $10 million 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 Center, 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 minimize any effects on their customers,” the organization 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 cyber criminals.”

The White House is putting an increasing focus on cyber security in the wake of numerous data breaches of companies ranging from mass retailers like U.S. companies Target and Home Depot to Sony Pictures Entertainment and health insurer Anthem.

The administration wants Congress to replace the existing patchwork of state laws with a national standard giving companies 30 days to notify consumers if their personal information has been compromised.

This story was compiled with information provided by the Associated Press and Kaspersky Lab.