Feeds

Trojan plunders $480k from online bank account

Windows and online banking - Just say no

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

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. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
14 antivirus apps found to have security problems
Vendors just don't care, says researcher, after finding basic boo-boos in security software
'Things' on the Internet-of-things have 25 vulnerabilities apiece
Leaking sprinklers, overheated thermostats and picked locks all online
iWallet: No BONKING PLEASE, we're Apple
BLE-ding iPhones, not NFC bonkers, will drive trend - marketeers
Only '3% of web servers in top corps' fully fixed after Heartbleed snafu
Just slapping a patched OpenSSL on a machine ain't going to cut it, we're told
Multipath TCP speeds up the internet so much that security breaks
Black Hat research says proposed protocol will bork network probes, flummox firewalls
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Israel's Iron Dome missile tech stolen by Chinese hackers
Corporate raiders Comment Crew fingered for attacks
Tor attack nodes RIPPED MASKS off users for 6 MONTHS
Traffic confirmation attack bared users' privates - but to whom?
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.