Wednesday, 17 October, 2018

Europol tracks down suspected leader of Carbanak malware campaigns

A Cyber Gang Stole $1 Billion by Hacking Banks and ATMs. Now Police Say They've Caught the Mastermind Europol tracks down suspected leader of Carbanak malware campaigns
Doris Mccormick | 28 March, 2018, 07:29

An operation by Europol, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and multi-national authorities has seen the leader of the crime gang behind the Carbanak and Cobalt malware attacks arrested. Derived from a precursor program called Anunak, a malware known as Carbanak became the gang's primary weapon from 2014-2016, hence their team's moniker.

Europol said a host of organizations had been involved in the investigation, including the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the European Banking Federation (EBF), and the authorities in Spain, Romania, Belarus, and Taiwan. The attackers used their malware to embed themselves into financial institutions where they would study processes and mannerisms for months before making a move to steal money.

The cyber criminal gang started out its heavy hitting heists with the Anunak malware campaign that saw it steal $81m from the Bangladesh Bank.

Authorities say the arrest is a significant victory, proving cyber criminals can no longer hide behind global anonymity.

Europol's report stressed that the worldwide policing community's united effort was responsible for the ring leader's arrest. "This is another example where the close cooperation between law enforcement agencies on a worldwide scale and trusted private sector partners is having a major impact on top level cybercriminality".

Send spear-phishing emails, purporting to come from legitimate companies but bearing malicious attachments, to bank employees. They could transfer funds to other bank accounts that they operate, adjust the balance of bank accounts and force ATMs to spit out cash that could be collected by members of their gang.

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The malware was capable of facilitating the theft of large sums, with Cobalt allowing thefts of up to €10 million at a time.

"Once downloaded, the malicious software allowed the criminals to remotely control the victims' infected machines, giving them access to the internal banking network and infecting the servers controlling the ATMs", according to the EBF.

The group also managed to set up a cryptocurrency farm, which they use to launder money. With ATMs, the group would reportedly schedule machines to dispense cash at pre-determined times and have associates waiting nearby to grab it. And from there the hackers could spread their malware and go hunting for money.

Mijs adds: "Public-private cooperation is essential when it comes to effectively fighting digital cross border crimes like the one that we are seeing here with the Carbanak gang".

The group also inflated money mules' bank account balances and used them to collect the money.

"The criminal profits were also laundered via cryptocurrencies, by means of prepaid cards linked to the cryptocurrency wallets which were used to buy goods such as luxury cars and houses", Europol said in a statement.

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