Spyware hackers raid Calif. city coffers

Wild Wild West

Hackers attempted to swipe $450,000 after stealing login credentials associated with bank accounts run by the city of Carson, California. Police are working on the theory that the password for the general fund account was stolen after miscreants planted key-logging spyware onto a PC used by city treasurer Karen Avilla.

All but $45,000 of the stolen money was recovered after city officials spotted a pair of suspicious transfers and notified their bank, according to city treasurer Karen Avilla. Investigators are working to trace the destination of the remaining funds.

The use of malware is beginning to replace spam-vertised phishing sites as a means for crooks to obtain sensitive login information. Normally such attacks are targeted as consumers. Carson City's experiences show large enterprises are also vulnerable. It's unclear whether or not Carson City was targeted by fraudsters.

The two unauthorised transfers involve $90,000 sent to a "Diego Smith" in North Carolina and a blocked attempt to wire $358,000 to a bank in Kalamazoo, Michigan, the LA Times reports. The fraudulent transactions took place on 23 and 24 May, respectively.

"Although officials claim that any losses are covered by the city's insurers, I fully expect the city's insurance premium to rise at the next renewal date," said Geoff Sweeney, CTO at behavioural analysis software specialist Tier-3. Prevention is better than cure, he added. ®

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