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ABN Amro e-banking service hacked

But not much to worry about unless you're Net-stupid

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Update An investigative programme for Dutch TV has exposed security flaws in national bank ABN Amro's e-banking service Home Net. Hackers managed to breach defences and divert payments into their own accounts.

The money ran into thousands of guilders (hundreds of pounds sterling) but went unnoticed by the bank. The hackers also attempted to break into Rabobank's and ING's home banking services but were thwarted.

In the programme, screened on Sunday in Holland, an ABN Amro executive actually admits that the Home Net service is not fully secure and expects the hole to be fixed "within a few weeks". The Dutch consumers' group was livid when it heard the bank's response and insisted that ABN Amro pull its service until the problems were sorted out. It also said the bank should take full responsibility for any losses suffered by customers.

It seems as though insecure Internet banking isn't just a trait of the UK. Banks are obviously more concerned about image than customer service all over Europe. ®

Update: A knowledgeable reader writes:

"I watched the programme last night (living in Holland, and using the software to do my home banking), and was, to be frank, not really all that frightened.

Some background:

The ABN-Amro bank programme (HomeNet) is built using Borland tools (of which I personally am a great fan). However, the database holding your account details is unencrypted, and held in dbf files (I believe) so anyone can use the Borland Database Engine tools to peek into the database to examine transactions (which I have done, for my own personal amusement).

However, this also makes it vulnerable to manipulation.
The 'hackers' (actually some students who had discovered the hole and demonstrated it for the TV programme), after reporting it to the bank, who did nothing, until the TV programme was shown, use the following method:


  • Search newsgroups for people asking questions about using ABN Amro's Homenet e-banking system
  • Send these people a 'patch', posing as 'helpdesk@abnamro.nl', containing the hack (really, a trojan)

When the user runs the 'patch' the trojan installs itself, and ensures that all payments entered are sent to a different bank account number.



To be fair, a vigilant bank employee spotted the problem, after several different payments were made (including one of NLG 23,000, about £7,000) with different names, to the same account number. So the problem is more a combination of poor (or lazy) programming, user ignorance (and boy can they be ignorant), and <religious-bigotry>the typical slack security of Microsoft OSes, which allow anyone to update, delete, etc any programme</religious-bigotry>.

Not quite in the same league as Barclays(?), where a friend of mine was able to transfer a significant sum into his own account from someone else's. Just to set you straight. Although I realise that facts don't always have to be top priority.

David Emmett"

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