An Yle survey found that all of Finland’s major banks have reported attempts to break into online bank accounts, with software applications being used to surreptitiously siphon off funds from customers’ accounts.
Since last winter, online banking customers have become the target of increasingly more sophisticated security attacks. Police have been investigating some of the cases.
“I can’t comment on specifics, but there have been more than 100 successful breaches,” said Detective Chief Inspector Timo Piiroinen of the National Bureau of Investigation.
Virus protection not enough
The cybercriminals have taken aim at customers of all of Finland’s largest banks. And not even the most up-to-date security software on home computers has been able to deflect the criminal attacks, said OP-Pohjola’s Director of online services, Kai Koskela.
“Of course virus protection helps, but recently there have been programmes that the virus protection software have not detected,” Koskela declared.
Yle asked the banks how they have fared in the battle against internet crime this year. The situation doesn’t look good.
Sampo Bank reported daily attempts to breach online security—whereas before such attacks used to come sporadically, in waves. The bank said most attempts to access customer accounts were blocked, but not all of them.
Malware concealed in hundreds of home computers
Nordea Bank, the nation's largest, stressed that the attacks target home computers, not the banks’ systems. The bank estimates that hundreds of home computers in Finland are currently harbouring some kind of malware.
Aktia Bank revealed that it is currently investigating “a few” netbank breaches. Bank officials say that in addition to malware, “phishing” attacks are attempting to harvest customers’ banking codes.
Kai Koskela of OP-Pohjola said that cybercriminals are looking to siphon off sums ranging from tens to thousands of euros, and there have been successful efforts this year.
“Recently, we have had cases every week,” he admitted.
For its part, S-Bank knows of about two dozen suspected malware programmes. Two of the bank’s customers have lost a total of 1,000 euros.
A record year for online theft?
From the banks’ perspective, the sums stolen are not large, but at the very least these cases of theft hurt customers trying to save.
Finland’s biggest online theft occurred a few years ago, when cybercriminals stole 1.2 million euros from some 100 Nordea customers. Officials were able to recover all but 200,000 euros. According to the NBI, this year is shaping up to be just as bad.
“This kind of criminal activity has come to Finland, and only alert action by banks and customers will rein it in,” said the NBI’s cyber sleuth Piiroinen.
Tracking cybercriminals meanwhile poses a challenge for the internet investigators. Online criminal activity usually involves cross-border groups, and in addition to constantly evolving malware, there is often a connection to money laundering.
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