According to a new report by computer security giant Kaspersky, an “unprecedented cyber robbery” has targeted up to 100 companies around the world. The attacks, which were levelled against a global selection of banks and financial firms, resulted in the theft of a combined US$1 billion (£648 million) according to Kaspersky’s estimates.
These attacks, according to the report, began in 2013 and are continuing to take place. A gang of cybercriminals with members in Russia, China and the Ukraine is behind the attacks, it is claimed. The gang, which Kaspersky refers to as Carbanak, used a number of tactics to carry out the attacks.
They infected the companies’ networks with various forms of malware in order to gain access to funds. Notably, video surveillance programs allowed them to observe activity on the computer monitors of staff at the various companies that were targeted. This allowed them to gain access to large amounts of sensitive information, which was used to steal money.
The criminals were able to gain access to the bank accounts of some of these companies and transfer money directly into their own accounts. In some cases, they were even able to arrange for cash machines to dispense money at a certain time of day, when a member of the gang would be waiting to pick up the cash.
Compared to the grab-and-run nature of “traditional” bank robbery, the cybercriminals’ technologically sophisticated approach is a more drawn-out process. On average, the Kaspersky report says, individual attacks take the gang 2-4 months, and the amount stolen in each attack could be up to US$10 million (£6.5 billion).
Cybercrime has had a fair amount of news coverage recently, with attacks on high-profile companies like Sony. However, the report says that these attacks represent a new shift in the nature of cybercrime. Unlike traditional cybercrime, these new attacks represent cases where “malicious users steal money directly from banks and avoid targeting end users.”
Sergey Golovanov, principal security researcher for Kaspersky, described the crimes as “very slick and professional.” Interpol’s Sanjay Virmani, director of the organisations digital crime centre, said that they “underline the fact that criminals will exploit any vulnerability in any system.”
A briefing about the report was reportedly given in January to the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Centre, which provides banks with warnings about hacking and cybercrime. In a statement, the organisation said: “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.”