A criminal group from Spain was arrested recently by Europol for stealing $1.5 billion using malware infiltrations. Reportedly the Russian and Ukrainian hackers have exchanged the large amount into Bitcoins and spent it on real estate and luxury cars.
According to several reports, the Europol agents have captured the thieves in the region of Alicante, Spain. The authorities have stated that the cybercriminals have attacked more than 100 international banks in just five years.
The hackers were using a simple method to hack into the banks’ database. They sent malware-infected emails to bank employees. The malware was identified as being a software dubbed Carbanak or Cobalt. Before each attack, the hackers were improving or changing the malware to suit the requirements of each bank’s system.
In every case, after the malware was accessed, the infection would spread inside the bank’s server accessing all its branches. The targets of the malware were bank accounts and ATMs. After the bank accounts and ATMs were drained, the thieves exchanged the money into bitcoin so they could mislead the investigators.
According to Spain’s Ministry of Interior, the hackers attacked all the financial institutions inside the country. From Spain’s capital, Madrid, the hackers withdrawal almost $1 million. Furthermore, after they have attacked all the banks in Spain, the hackers moved their attention outside the borders. The cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Labs reported that they had found the same malware in 30 different countries.
To catch the thieves, the Europol and FBI worked intensely with local authorities from Spain, Romania, Belarus, and Taiwan for several years. Several cybersecurity companies also aided the law enforcement agencies.
While the police managed to catch the hackers, they have declared that this bust is one of the biggest, but not the only one. Kaspersky Labs has disclosed that in the past years two other groups have used similar malware software to attack financial institutions.