Gang of Romanian and Moldovan crooks stole £1.6m from ATMs

Pierluigi Paganini November 03, 2014

A gang of criminals has stolen nearly £1.6m in raids on ATM (Automated Teller Machines) in UK. The group used a malware to compromise more than 50 ATMs.

According to the police, a group of Romanian criminals has stolen nearly £1.6 million in series of jackpotting attacks. The technique of the jack spotting was presented for the first time by the popular hacker Barnaby Jack in 2010 and it consists in a method to force ATMs to spit out cash. (Barnaby Jack is dead of an accidental drug overdose according the results provided by the San Francisco’s medical examiner’s office.)

The investigation allowed the identification of a couple of suspects, which are members of a larger gang composed by individuals for Eastern Europe. The British police believe that the group of criminals is composed mainly by Romanian and Moldovan.

The police arrested a man and a woman in Portsmouth, according some details disclosed by law enforcement the criminals infected the ATM machine through a malware that was transferred with a removable media.

“This operation represents a significant disruption against a sophisticated criminal enterprise who used specialist malware to target cash points and steal large quantities of cash.” said Nigel Kirby, deputy director for the NCA’s economic crime command.

The malicious code implements advanced evasion methods, including the capability to deleted itself after the money thefts is completed, making hard the investigation of law enforcement.

Unfortunately in the recent months the number of hacking attacks against ATM is increased, I detailed in a blog post recently  published by The Infosec Institute, the different techniques adopted by criminal organizations and I explained which are the malicious codes used to compromise automatic teller machines.

“Members of the gang, believed to be made up of Romanian and Moldovan criminals, inserted a disc containing a malware programme into the cash machines. When the machines were refilled with cash, other members of the gang used a code to empty them. ” states Sean O’Neill, crime editor on the Times.

More than 50 ATMs were infected in the cities of Blackpool, Brighton, Doncaster, Liverpool, London, Portsmouth and Sheffield were targeted by the criminal gang over the May bank holiday weekend. Law enforcement declared that the cash stolen was smuggled into eastern Europe within days.

ATM hacking

Recently experts at Kaspersky Lab have observed several attacks on Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) which were infected by malware dubbed Tyupkin. Tyupkin is one of the most popular malicious codes used by criminals to hack ATMs and force them to release cash on demand. Experts at Kaspersky Lab collected evidence that Tyupkin infected at least 50 ATMs, mainly in Eastern Europe.

Tyupkin is just one of the different strains of malware used in the cyber criminal ecosystem to hack ATMs. In May 2013, security experts spotted another ATM Trojan dubbed Padpin; meanwhile in October 2013, malware researchers isolated samples of another malware dubbed Ploutus that was circulated to compromise banking machines and steal cash from them.

“US Intelligence estimated annual losses from ATM skimming at more than $1 billion in 2008. In the past, cyber criminals used phony number pads and skimmers to steal debit card PIN data, a risky practice due to the necessity to deploy the sniffing equipment and then come back to remove it while avoiding surveillance.

For this reason, criminal gangs have evolved their TTPs (Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures) proposing attack schema even more sophisticated based on malware that are used to compromise the ATMs.

“Cash machine crime had been on the decline because increased card security had made it more difficult for gangs to “skim” details and to make counterfeit cards. The development of the malware and the ability to more easily access standalone machines threatens an upsurge in thefts.” reported The Times.

The British law enforcement and other Intelligence agencies are coordinating their efforts to promptly identify ongoing crimes and quickly identify those responsible.

“Gangs from Bulgaria and Romania have specialised in cash machine thefts around the world for the past decade. In Europe they have operated on a tacit understanding that the Bulgarians work in southern countries, with the Romanian gangs focused on northern Europe, including Britain. “

Stay tuned for further information.

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Pierluigi Paganini

Security Affairs –  (ATM hacking, cybercrime)

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