Hackers Steal One Billion Dollars From Banks

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Updated on Tuesday, February 17, 2015

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One thing is certain: bank theft is becoming bigger, and bank fraudsters are becoming more sophisticated. Just this week, Kaspersky Lab, a Russian security company, released a report that alleged a global crime ring stole up to $1 billion from banks globally.

The criminals would use phishing and other methods to gain access to bank systems. Over time, they would learn about the internal control processes of the banks, which included isolating the process weaknesses. They would then proceed to steal, but never too much from any one bank. The amount of money stolen from each bank was typically less than $10 million. They targeted banks around the world, including in Europe and the Americas.

There are stories of ATMs that just started spitting out cash, as they were controlled remotely by a Russian crime ring. And there are even stories of the criminals setting up video surveillance of banks, leveraging the cameras in bank computers that were hacked.

The sheer size and scale of this operation is impressive. They have quietly stolen nearly $1 billion, without creating too big of a commotion for any individual bank. And they meticulously learned the internal procedures of hundreds of banks, patiently waiting to exploit weaknesses.

Despite the increasing technological prowess of many criminals, old-fashioned phishing and poorly designed internal procedures remain some of the biggest risks for the banking sector. Another report from Kapersky reveals that 28.8% of phishing attacks were aimed at stealing financial data from customers.

Phishing is “a type of internet fraud that is used by cybercriminals to lure users into providing their data (account logins and other personal information) by creating fake Web pages to imitate popular online resources.” And, although Macs have historically been safer, Kapersky reports an increase in financial phishing attacks against Mac OS X users in recent years.

Protecting yourself from phishing scams is becoming more challenging, as the fraudsters become more sophisticated. Be very cautious before clicking on a link in an email – especially if they ask for personal information, including login and password information. And the best way to prevent fraud in your bank accounts is to take full advantage of the fraud protection measures offered by banks. These include increased security measures for adding payees online, email and text alerts for transactions, regular emails that show your balance and downloading apps that provide regular updates on your account activity.

Fraud will continue to increase, with particular attention on banking. Although banks will be working to increase their defenses, you are ultimately responsible for protecting yourself. Make sure you only share your personal information with trusted and verified third parties, and sign up for all protections available from your bank. Fraud will likely happen once in your life: you need to be prepared, and minimize the impact.

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