Crime ring stole $45 m from two West Asian banks by hacking into credit card processing firms; seven arrested
In one of the biggest ever bank heists, a global cyber crime ring stole $45 million from two West Asian banks by hacking into credit card processing firms and withdrawing money from ATMs in 27 countries, US prosecutors said on Thursday.
The US justice department accused eight men of allegedly forming the New York-based cell of the organisation, and said seven of them have been arrested. The eighth, allegedly a leader of the cell, was reported to have been murdered in the Dominican Republic on April 27.
The ringleaders are believed to be outside the US but prosecutors declined to give details, citing the ongoing investigation. What's clear is the sheer scope and speed of the crimes: in one of the attacks, in just over 10 hours, $40 million was raided from ATMs in 24 countries involving 36,000 transactions. “In the place of guns and masks, this cyber crime organisation used laptops and the internet,” US attorney for the eastern district of New York Loretta Lynch said at a news conference. “Moving as swiftly as data over the internet, the organisation worked its way from the computer systems of international corporations to the streets of New York.”
The case demonstrates the major threat that cyber crime poses to banks around the world. It also shows how increasingly international and sophisticated criminal gangs have become, particularly those using the internet.
Prosecutors highlighted the “surgical precision” of these hackers, the global nature of their organisation, and the speed and coordination with which they executed operations in 27 countries.
According to the complaint, the gang broke into the computers of two credit card processors, one in India in December 2012 and the other in the US this February. The companies were not identified. The hackers increased the available balance and withdrawal limits on prepaid MasterCard debit cards issued by Bank of Muscat of Oman, and National Bank of Ras Al Khaimah (RAKBANK) of the UAE, according to the complaint. They then distributed counterfeit debit cards to “cashers” around the world, enabling them to siphon millions of dollars from ATMs within hours.
In New York, for example, members of the cell fanned out into the city on the afternoon of February 19, armed with cards bearing a single Bank of Muscat account number. Ten hours later, they had completed 2,904 withdrawals for