Feeds

Trojan plunders $480k from online bank account

Windows and online banking - Just say no

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

A Pennsylvania organization that helps develop affordable housing learned a painful lesson about the hazards of online banking using the Windows operating system when a notorious trojan siphoned almost $480,000 from its account.

News reports here and here say $479,247 vanished from a bank account belonging to the Cumberland County Redevelopment Authority after it was hit by Clampi. The trojan gets installed by tricking users into clicking on a file attached to email and then lies in wait for the victim to log in to online financial websites. The authority has so far been able to recover $109,467 of the stolen loot.

The theft is part of a rash of online heists that have stolen millions of dollars from businesses and non-profit organizations. While circumstances are different in each case, they all point to a single point of failure: Each theft relied on the successful compromise of a Windows-based system.

It was this undeniable fact that led Brian Krebs - author of the Security Fix blog which over the past month has published a series of articles detailing high-stakes bank thefts - to recommend Windows machines no longer be used by those who choose to do their banking online.

"I do not offer this recommendation lightly," he wrote. "But I have interviewed dozens of victim companies that lost anywhere from $10,000 to $500,000 dollars because of a single malware infection."

To be clear, that's malware that ran only on Windows.

Indeed, the Clampi variant that hit the Cumberland redevelopment authority reportedly was able to succeed even though employees used an automated clearing house token that generated a different eight-digit access code every minute or so. Redevelopment authority officials didn't return calls seeking comment for this article.

The obvious solution for many is to simply close all online banking accounts. Contrary to what banks say, writing checks really isn't that much of a hassle, at least if you don't write that many of them.

But if you insist on making online payments and transfers, the best decision you can make is to stop using Windows to make those transactions. Even if you're careful, software vulnerabilities these days are simply too numerous and the malware too sophisticated for anyone to know with a reasonable amount of certainty that their machines aren't compromised.

True, there's no way to know your Mac or Linux machine isn't compromised, either. But so far, there are few if any reports of banking trojans that attack those systems. (And yes, as Apple's market share continues to rise, it's likely OS X will be targeted. We can cross that bridge when we get to it.)

But in this age of free Live CD boot disks, there's no good reason for anyone to continue using Windows-based machines to access sensitive financial sites. Just ask the folks at Cumberland's redevelopment authority. ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Goog says patch⁵⁰ your Chrome
64-bit browser loads cat vids FIFTEEN PERCENT faster!
Chinese hackers spied on investigators of Flight MH370 - report
Classified data on flight's disappearance pinched
NIST to sysadmins: clean up your SSH mess
Too many keys, too badly managed
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
Researchers camouflage haxxor traps with fake application traffic
Honeypots sweetened to resemble actual workloads, complete with 'secure' logins
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.