Tuesday

28th Feb 2017

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).

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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.

Analysis

Why Romania erupted in protest

Current anger over corruption laws can be traced back to a night-club fire in 2015, when many died because of lax safety standards. Romanians then realised that corruption can kill.

French police raid Le Pen's party office

Officers raid the National Front headquarters near Paris over allegations that leader Marine Le Pen used fake EU parliament contracts to pay her personal staff.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsFreedom of Association and Expression Under Threat in Kazakhstan, Reports CIVICUS Monitor
  2. QS World MBA TourMeet with Leading International Business Schools in Brussels on March 6th
  3. EURORDISJoin Rare Disease Day and Help Advocate for More Research on Rare Diseases
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceStudents Who Are Considered Fit Get Better Grades in School
  5. QS World MBA TourMeet with Leading International Business Schools in Paris on March 4th
  6. Malta EU 2017Economic Governance: Agreement Reached on Structural Reform Support Programme for Member States
  7. Socialists & DemocratsWomen Have to Work Ten Years Longer to Match Lifetime Earnings of Men
  8. Counter BalanceTrans-Adriatic Pipeline Is a Major Risk for Banks, Warns New Analysis
  9. Martens CentreEU and US Migration Policies Compared: Join the Debate on February 28th
  10. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  11. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen
  12. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps