Big arrest in cybercrime ring that targeted global banks

Head of cybercrime, money laundering gang arrested in Spain

The head of a European cybercrime gang that targeted banks around the world was arrested in Spain in late March, according to a Europol press release. Authorities estimate that in the last five years, this group has stolen over €1 billion through attacks on more than 100 financial institutions through their financial transfers, e-payments, and ATMs.

The gang’s best-known attacks involved malware named Carbanak and later Cobalt. Institutions in more than 40 countries experienced these attacks.

Europol described the method of attack as follows: “The criminals would send out to bank employees spear phishing emails with a malicious attachment impersonating legitimate companies. 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. This provided them with the knowledge they needed to cash out the money.”

Thieves laundered the profits by using prepaid cards linked to cryptocurrency wallets. These proceeds then paid for high-ticket items like luxury cars and real estate.

Officials lauded cooperation among various nations’ law enforcement entities, and they especially highlighted cooperative efforts with the European Banking Federation as central to these investigative activities and the arrests that resulted.

Wim Mijs, Chief Executive Office of the European Banking Federation, said: “This is the first time that the EBF has actively cooperated with Europol on a specific investigation. It clearly goes beyond raising awareness on cybersecurity and demonstrates the value of our partnership with the cybercrime specialists at Europol. 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.”

When the magnitude and scope of these cyber thefts began to come to light in 2015, financial institutions were reluctant to share details, according to a 2015 story in the New York Times detailing the thefts and the methods used. But governments and institutions worldwide have been working toward more cooperation to dampen the surge of financial crimes capable in a high-tech global economy.


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