PALO ALTO, Calif. — In late 2013, an A.T.M. in Kiev started dispensing cash at seemingly random times of day. No one had put in a card or touched a button. Cameras showed that the piles of money had been swept up by customers who appeared lucky to be there at the right moment.
But when a Russian cybersecurity firm, Kaspersky Lab, was called to Ukraine to investigate, it discovered that the errant machine was the least of the bank’s problems.
The bank’s internal computers, used by employees who process daily transfers and conduct bookkeeping, had been penetrated by malware that allowed cybercriminals to record their every move. The malicious software lurked for months, sending back video feeds and images that told a criminal group — including Russians, Chinese and Europeans — how the bank conducted its daily routines, according to the investigators.
Then the group impersonated bank officers, not only turning on various cash machines, but also transferring millions of dollars from banks in Russia, Japan, Switzerland, the United States and the Netherlands into dummy accounts set up in other countries.
How Hackers Infiltrated Banks
Since late 2013, an unknown group of hackers has reportedly stolen $300 million — possibly as much as triple that amount — from banks across the world, with the majority of the victims in Russia. The attacks continue, all using roughly the same modus operandi:
Hackers send email containing a malware program called Carbanak to hundreds of bank employees, hoping to infect a bank’s administrative computer.
Programs installed by the malware record keystrokes and take screen shots of the bank’s computers, so that hackers can learn bank procedures. They also enable hackers to control the banks’ computers remotely.
By mimicking the bank procedures they have learned, hackers direct the banks’ computers to steal money in a variety of ways:
Transferring money into hackers’ fraudulent bank accounts
Using e-payment systems to send money to fraudulent accounts overseas
Directing A.T.M.s to dispense money at set times and locations