Authorities Arrest ATM Malware Thieves for Stealing $3.2 Million

A sweeping law enforcement operation with agencies from Europe and Asia has seen five members of an international organized criminal group apprehended, with three of them convicted so far. The group planned and carried out “highly-sophisticated” malware attacks targeting ATMs, enabling them to siphon all the cash from the machine.

Altogether, the Romanian National Police, the Taiwanese Criminal Investigation Bureau and the Belarusian Central Office of the Investigative Committee were all involved in multiple arrests of the international criminal group.

The “highly sophisticated” operation, according to Europol, began with spear-phishing emails that contained attachments with malicious software. The banks’ internal networks were then compromised, with malware leaving the door open for the cybercriminal group to strike. Entire networks of ATMs were also compromised and controlled by the thieves, who then deployed software to delete most traces of their criminal activities.

Steven Wilson, head of Europol’s European Cybercrime Center stated:

The majority of cybercrimes have an international dimension, taking into account the origins of suspects and places where crimes are committed. Only through a coordinated approach at the global level between law enforcement agencies can we successfully track down the criminal networks behind such large-scale frauds and bring them to justice.

Altogether, banks have incurred estimated losses of EUR 3 million (approx. $3.23 million) after stolen money was partially recovered in a few cases.

Members of the cybercriminal group were recruited online and most of them possessed multiple citizenships, enabling them easy access to travel and commit the ATM heists around the world.

In Taiwan, three convicted suspects were sentenced to five years in prison each. Detained by Taiwanese police since their July 2016 arrest, the European nationals were charged with fraud and offenses against computer security. Prosecutors originally sought a 12-year prison term for each suspect, according to Focus Taiwan.

Altogether, a total of 22 suspects from six countries were involved in the ATM heist. 19 suspects who fled the country to escape authorities have been placed on a wanted list, prosecutors revealed.

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