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Bank Muscat hit by $39m ATM cash-out heist

Duplicated cards fingered

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Cybercrooks have pulled off a $39m ATM heist against a bank in Oman using pre-paid travel cards.

Bank Muscat put out a statement through the Muscat Securities Market admitting the loss:

12 Bank Muscat prepaid Travel Cards were compromised on February 20, 2013. The gross value of transactions on these cards, which were compromised outside of Oman, was RO 15 million. No customers have suffered any financial loss and no other credit or debit cards issued by Bank Muscat have been affected. The Bank is working with all stakeholders to further investigate and to establish any losses arising from these transactions. We will inform the market of any material developments.

Bank card experts told the The Times of Oman that fraudsters must have bought the travel cards and duplicated them several times before using them from multiple locations outside the country.

It's possible that the sultanate's biggest bank may have been hacked. The cards were used in 10 to 15 locations on a single day, the paper added.

Impairment charges likely to arise as a result of the theft (assuming funds are not recovered) represent 10.5 per cent of Bank Muscat’s estimated 2013 earnings, United Securities said in a note, Reuters reports.

Security blogger Brian Krebs noted that the heist, which involved re-loadable prepaid debit cards tied to accounts in the Arab bank, is similar to two December 2012 cash-out operations that collectively netted $11m. And before that, there was a $13m fraud against Fidelity National Information Services early in 2012 and a $9m sting against RBS Worldpay in December 2008 involving counterfeit payroll debit cards, Krebs added.

Hackers used compromised access to RBS Worldpay systems to increase the withdrawal limits on the counterfeit debit cards under their control as well as other trickery involving siphoning stolen funds into accounts linked to the dodgy cards.

"These events have been caused by intrusions into the processing systems used to process the prepaid cards, and the transaction limits are overridden on a group of cards, the hackers clone these cards and engage 'Smurfs' to make repetitive ATM withdrawals on these card accounts on a Friday night right after the ATMs have been loaded with cash for the weekend," explained Terrence P Maher, general counsel to the Network Branded Prepaid Card Association.

"Risk mitigation starts with strict adherence to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards, to prevent such intrusions. As a back-up, the banks need to have insurance coverage for cyber-intrusion, to protect them against large losses," he added. ®

Bootnote

Thanks to Reg reader Adam for highlighting the e-heist.

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