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Egg hackers were disorganised crime

Multiple loan applications from one IP address. Doh!

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More details have emerged about the so-called "Great Internet Robbery" at online bank Egg.com.

This was not the Great Hack that everyone thought it was yesterday, just a set of fraudulent applications for loans and bank accounts with free overdrafts.

In fact, the reason these guys got caught is that Egg had software in place capable of tracing fraudulent account activity by checking up on multiple applications from a single IP address.

Much of the news coverage of the event has focussed on the lack of security of banking online, but this is not relevant to this case. This was an old-style fraud committed by people without enough technical knowledge to mask their identities and hide what they were doing from the bank's monitoring software.

In the words of one security expert we spoke to: "That doesn't sound like very organised 'Organised Crime' to me. In fact it seems that they went out of their way to be traceable. The raids took place in three locations: Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire, and it appears they gathered together to make the applications."

Indeed. If these people had thought about what they were doing, multiple applications would have been made from multiple sources, untraceable to one person. It is not as though there is any great shortage of Internet cafes to go to.

If this situation adds to peoples concerns about online banking, it shouldn't. There was, according to Egg, no security breach and no customers' money was stolen. This kind of crime was just as easy to perpetrate in the "real world" until money laundering regulations tightened up on the amount of identification required to open bank account.

Robert Schifreen, a director at Information Security Training, commented: "This will not be the last time this happens, and it is not the big online bank hack everyone has been expecting. That, I fear, is still to come."

The National Criminal Intelligence Service put out a statement three weeks ago pinpointing the real issue. It said: "Suspicious transactions reported by high street banks are frequently generated through observations of staff who serve the customers. This opportunity is eliminated through the operation of the Internet and may therefore result in a decrease in the number of disclosures."

The security of online banking has not, as all the doomsayers proclaim, been shown up again, although it may yet be. ®

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