On Friday the 13th, Kaspersky, a Russian anti-malware and research firm, released a report documenting a significant campaign to infiltrate banks worldwide to steal hard cash.  Somewhere between 300M and 1 billion dollars are estimated to have been pilfered.


Attackers entered the banks systems using phishing lures and then compromised systems that had known vulnerabilities.  The actual monetary theft came from observing the banks processes and compromising users that had the right access to the banks financial applications.


This was an extensive and coordinated operation as the cybercriminals moved electronic money through SWIFT (an international interbank transfer program), and cash through reprogrammed ATMs – essentially turning your local ATM into a Las Vegas jackpot. Clearly creating so many fraudulent receiver accounts and spewing cash required an extensive money mule network.


Given that the actual theft involved deep understanding of the target banks audit and reconciliation procedures, and actual understanding of banking software, this was a well-researched and staged attack – the essence of an Advanced Persistent Threat (APT). So if a sophisticated, regulated organization like a bank is vulnerable are there any lessons for the rest of us?


Here are a few takeaways we can all apply in our own organizations.


1. Staff security awareness


Your staff is your front line infantry in the battle against cybercrime.  Even small organizations can put together a meaningful security awareness program with open source tools.


2. Backup and Patch


If you have a good backup program, you can be more aggressive about patching.  Depending on your organization size and how mission critical your systems are, backup – test – patch is a tried and true method for avoiding infections that do not use 0-days.


3. Monitor


Use your logging, log management and Patch management systems to find:

  • Systems that aren’t patched
  • The same user ID logged into a critical systems simultaneously (especially from different IP addresses)
  • Critical Application anomalies – high rate of transactions, more logins than usual, low and slow e.g short bursts of application activity over a long period of time.
  • Suspicious software installations.
  • System file changes
  • Suspicious out bound network traffic via the firewall i.e. FTP, SMTP and other protocols that facilitate file or data transfer.


For more information see:

Kaspersky report of Carbanak APT



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