Thursday

15th Nov 2018

Cyber criminals steal millions from EU banks

  • Fraudsters initiated transfers totaling €35 million from 5,000 Dutch business accounts based in two banks in March. (Photo: UK Ministry of Defence)

Cyber attacks have siphoned off at least €60 million from personal and business accounts in 60 banks located in Europe, the United States, and Latin America.

Security firms Guardian Analytics and McAfee published the findings in a joint report called "Dissecting Operation High Roller" on Tuesday (26 June).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

High-balance accounts in Italy, Germany and the Netherlands were the initial targets of the attacks before they spread out to the Americas.

The experts say at least €2 billion could have been stolen if the fraud campaign had demonstrated the same level of success against accounts based in The Netherlands.

In March alone, fraudsters initiated transfers totaling €35 million from 5,000 Dutch business accounts based in two banks.

The Guardian Analytics and McAfee study identified 60 servers processing thousands of attempted thefts that initially targeted consumers before moving onto businesses. Every class and size of financial institution was targeted.

In Italy, the accounts targeted held on average between €250,000 to €500,000. Hackers introduced a code in malware that transferred either a fixed percentage or a relatively small fixed amount onto a pre-paid debit card or bank account.

The system was able to bypass, in less than 60 seconds, physical authentication checks such as the smartcard reader common in Europe.

Account holders introduce or swipe their cards in the smartcard to generate security codes and pin numbers to access their accounts online.

"The defeat of two-factor authentication that uses physical devices is a significant breakthrough for the fraudsters. Financial institutions must take this innovation seriously, especially considering that the technique used can be expanded for other forms of physical security devices," say the researchers.

The same system of automated attacks in Italy then began to appear in Germany in January. Nearly €1 million was taken from a total of 176 accounts with average account balances nearing €50,000. The money was transferred to mule accounts in Portugal, Greece, and the United Kingdom.

In unrelated events also on Tuesday (26 June), a US sting operation arrested 24 people in the United States and abroad for buying and selling stolen credit card information.

The scam and thefts occurred in the United States, Canada and 11 European countries, reports the AFP.

Six people were arrested in the United Kingdom, two in Italy, and one each in Bulgaria, Germany and Norway.

The European Commission, for its part, says around one-third of EU citizens were banking online in 2010. The figure has most likely increased since.

It says that people's bank credentials are being sold traded by criminals in Europe for around €60 per account holder, and credit cards for as little as €1.

A European cyber crime centre should become operation in January 2013.

The centre, housed in the premises of Europol in The Hague, will be tasked to identify organised cyber-criminal networks and prominent offenders.

Hackers stole Van Rompuy's emails

Hackers last summer raided the emails of EU Council chief Herman Van Rompuy and 10 other senior EU officials.

Romania data chief defends forcing press to reveal sources

Romania's data protection authority is headed by Ancuta Gianina Opre, who in 2017 was charged with abuse of office in her previous job. Last week, she threatened a €20m fine against journalists in their effort to uncover corruption.

EU warns Romania not to abuse GDPR against press

Romania's data protection authority has threatened a €20m fine against reporters investigating high-level corruption. The European Commission has since issued a warning, telling Romanian authorities to give press exemptions when it comes to privacy rights.

News in Brief

  1. UK's May defends Brexit deal to MPs, after ministers resign
  2. Brexit MP calls for 'no confidence' vote on May
  3. Denmark blocks Tanzania aid over homophobic crackdown
  4. Second UK cabinet minister resigns over Brexit deal
  5. UK Brexit secretary quits morning after deal agreed
  6. Romanian MPs call for national 'Magnitsky Act'
  7. Tusk: Brexit summit on Sunday 25 November
  8. Full text of Brexit withdrawal agreement published

Opinion

Interpol, China and the EU

China joins a long list of countries - including Russia - accused of abusing Interpol's 'Red Notice' system to harras activists and dissidents.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. No-confidence calls against May put Brexit deal in doubt
  2. Key points of the Brexit deal (if it ever comes into effect)
  3. Romania heaps scorn on 'revolting' EU criticism
  4. US steps in to clean up Cyprus
  5. 'Decisive progress' on Brexit as British cabinet backs deal
  6. Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM put Orban on spot
  7. How the 'EU's Bank' fails to raise the bar on accountability
  8. Knives out on all sides for draft Brexit deal

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us