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Editor's Blog and Industry Comments

Advanced Malware used in major US ATM robbery

13 May, 2013
Spokesmen from Kaspersky Lab and Trusteer comment on the recent ATM heist of 29 million dollars using advanced malware


Following the news that hackers in the US were able to steal £29 million in an ATM heist, industry experts have commented on the seriousness of the incident and the apparent ease with which it was carried out, raising questions about the effectiveness of security on such critical IT systems.



Costin Raiu, Director of Global Research & Analysis Team Kaspersky Lab said: "This is no doubt one of the biggest and quickest thefts we have seen. So far, it seems no customers were affected, because the hackers targeted prepaid cards from certain banks, so the banks are the only victims. Nevertheless, it's a VERY serious incident and it raises a lot of questions about the security of the current payment systems.



"I'd like to draw the attention to the fact that in US, the insecure magnetic stripe is still used when performing payments with cards; this has been mostly abandoned everywhere in Europe and replaced by the more secure chips.



"The cybercriminals specialised in carding focus on replicating real cards on "blank" cards by reprogramming the magnetic stripe. A lot of these attacks would go away by getting rid of the stripe and updating the US payment systems to use the chips. Even then, it's true that the attacks won't go away, but they will for sure decrease or become a lot harder. I believe it makes sense for the banks to invest into upgrading the cards in the US and worldwide.



"Also, I think such attacks prove once again that our current payment systems are weak and insecure. We need a more secure solution, which is both easy to use and solid, one that can't be attacked by cybercriminals in such an easy way".



David Emm, Senior Security Researcher at Kaspersky Lab, added: "This incident highlights the global nature of cybercrime and hence the importance of the Europol's European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) as a focal point for combating cybercrime and Interpol’s announcement of the INTERPOL Global Complex for Innovation (IGCI)and Interpol's new centre in Singapore".



According to US Attorney Loretta Lynch, "This was indeed the largest theft of this type that we have yet seen. This was a 21st century bank heist that reached through the Internet to span the globe. But, instead of guns and masks, this cybercrime organization used laptops and malware."



George Tubin, Senior Security Strategist, Trusteer stated, “It appears the criminals in this case used advanced malware to breach the corporate network of two unnamed credit card processors that process prepaid debit card transactions.  This type of breach almost always starts with an employee PC being compromised with malware in order to gain a foothold into the corporate network.  Once inside the corporate network, the criminals can do what they want - and this massive heist clearly demonstrates the free reign afforded the cybercriminals to alter highly sensitive, highly protected information to ultimately steal $45 million.  Despite using market-leading endpoint and network protection solutions most large enterprises are (knowingly or unknowingly) still breached by advanced malware.”



“The only way to prevent these attacks is to prevent advanced, information-stealing malware from compromising employee endpoints - the weakest link in the security chain - and then moving the attack inside the corporate network.  Corporate breaches can only be prevented by stopping malicious files from invisibly sneaking onto employee computers through both unknown and unfixed software flaws (aka, vulnerabilities).  Because, once malware infects the user's computer, it's game over.”



“While this particular crime was highly visible due to the stolen funds, many corporate breaches go unnoticed as sensitive corporate data and highly valuable intellectual property are siphoned electronically out of the corporate network”, he said.


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