Thursday, 30 September 2010

FBI arrests more than 80 cyber criminals after computer virus siphons $3m from U.S. accounts

More than 80 people have been charged in connection with $3million being stolen from American bank accounts by hackers in eastern Europe.

The con artists used computer viruses to steal user names and passwords from unsuspecting victims, and then used the information to siphon off money from their accounts.

Foreign students were used in the heist to open up bank accounts in the U.S., which  were then used to transfer money that had been stolen in the cyber-theft scheme.

Dozens charged in international $3million computer virus scam
Vulnerable: Hundreds of unsuspecting computer users were targeted in a cyber theft scheme that raided $3million from bank accounts using Trojan viruses

In court papers unsealed in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, 37 offenders were charged with their roles in hacking into dozens of victims' accounts.

Charges included conspiracy to commit bank fraud, money laundering, false identification use and passport fraud.

Fifty-five others have been charged after a year-long investigation by the FBI.

Attorney Preet Bharara compared cyber criminals to classic bank robbers, saying: 'The mouse and the keyboard can be far more effective than the gun and the mask..
Mr Bharara revealed that the victims of the attacks included five banks and dozens of individuals across America.

Ten people were arrested early today - nine in the New York area and one in Pittsburgh. The others had already been arrested with at least 17 being fugitives.

The FBI said the cyber attacks included malware known as the Zues Trojan, which was typically sent as an email to computers at small businesses and offices.

Once the email's attachment was opened, the virus embedded itself in the victims' computers to secretly monitor their computer activity.

The virus recorded their keystrokes and captured their user names and passwords when they next logged into their online bank accounts.

The Trojan program also stole passwords for email log-ins and social networking websites that ordinarily only the user would know.
Individuals known as 'money mules' were used in the States to actually steal the money from individual accounts.

Mr Bharara said those arrested consisted almost entirely of mules and four people who managed them.

'The Zeus Trojan allegedly allowed the hackers, from thousands of miles away, to get their hands on other people's money - with far less exertion than a safe cracker or bank robber'

New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance said people from Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus had come to the States on student visas.

They were then recruited through social networking sites and newspaper ads to fraudulently open hundreds of bank accounts.

The money stolen from the victims would then be deposited into those illegal accounts and transferred in smaller amounts elsewhere.
Authorities said those who actually set up the bank accounts would keep up to ten per cent for themselves, sending the rest to those higher up in the scheme.

Mr Vance said: 'This advanced cyber crime ring is a disturbing example of organised crime in the 21st century - high-tech and widespread.'

Gregory Antenson, commanding officer of the city police department's Financial Crimes Task Force, said the police had shown up at a bank in the Bronx in February to investigate a suspicious $44,000 withdrawal.
This investigation then led them into the international probe that was already under way.
Janice K. Fedarcyk, assistant director in charge of the FBI's New York office, said: 'The Zeus Trojan allegedly allowed the hackers, from thousands of miles away, to get their hands on other people's money - with far less exertion than a safe cracker or bank robber'.


Source:www.dailymail.co.uk