October 05, 2012, 4:22 PM — An international gang of cyber crooks is plotting a major campaign to steal money from the online accounts of thousands of consumers at 30 or more major U.S. banks, security firm RSA warned.
In an advisory Thursday, RSA said it has information suggesting the gang plans to unleash a little-known Trojan program to infiltrate computers belonging to U.S. banking customers and to use the hijacked machines to initiate fraudulent wire transfers from their accounts.
If successful, the effort could turn out to be one of the largest organized banking-Trojan operations to date, Mor Ahuvia, cybercrime communications specialist with RSA's FraudAction team, said today. The gang is now recruiting about 100 botmasters, each of whom would be responsible for carrying out Trojan attacks against U.S. banking customers in return for a share of the loot, she said.
Each botmaster will be backed by an "investor" who will provide money to buy the hardware and software needed for the attacks, Ahuvia said.
"This is the first time we are seeing a financially motivated cyber crime operation being orchestrated at this scale," Ahivia said. "We have seen DDoS attacks and hacking before. But we have never seen it being organized at this scale."
RSA's warning comes at a time when U.S. banks are already on high alert. Over the past two weeks, the online operations of several major banks, including JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo were disrupted by what appeared to be coordinated denial-of-service attacks.
A little-known group called "Cyber fighters of Izz ad-din Al qassam" claimed credit for the attacks, but some security experts think a nation may have been behind the campaign because of the scale and organized nature of the attacks.
In mid-September, the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC) warned banks to be on guard against cyberattackers seeking to steal employee network login credentials to conduct extensive wire transfer fraud. Specifically, the alert warned banks to watch out for hackers using spam, phishing emails, Remote Access Trojans and keystroke loggers to try and pry loose bank employee usernames and passwords.
FS-ISAC also noted that the FBI had seen a new trend where cyber criminals use stolen bank employee credentials to transfer hundreds of thousands of dollars from customer accounts to overseas locations.
Over the past few years, cyber crooks have siphoned off millions of dollars from small businesses, school districts and local governments by stealing online usernames and passwords and using those credentials to make the transfers.