Is Your Money Safe? Russian Cyber Gang May Be Planning the Great American Bank Heist

Armed with “zombies” and “botnets”, invisible cyber hooligans are said to have designs on your account.

Photo Credit: Tatiana Popova/

The American security firm RSA says it has been picking up some distrurbing chatter in cyberspace. Threat analysts interpret that chatter to mean that a sophisticated gang of Russian cyber criminals is laying plans to launch a major attack on 30 U.S. banks. Quartz, the new digital business publication owned by the Atlantic Media Company, reportsthat RSA views the developments as highly alarming: “If the gang’s plans do materialize, this campaign could be the largest coordinated attack on American financial institutions to date.”

It starts with a funny-looking email, and could end in an empty bank account.

The Russian gang, which has been around since 2008, claims to have already nabbed $5 million from American bank accounts, according to Quartz. They do this by using a network of infected “zombie” PCs to distribute malicious trojan software through spam or other means. By gleaning personal information and passwords, then can then access accounts and perform wire transfers to accounts far away from your local ATM. In past attacks, small businesses have been hit, as well as schools and local governments. As if those three groups don’t have enough to worry about from Republicans!

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A new variation of the trojan software has capabilities to clone a target computer system by replicating screens and connecting to the user’s bank by impersonating the user.

If the Russian gang’s launch is successful, you should be seeing the results in targeted banks in the next two months. Many banks have already been treated recently to international cybercrime, including Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank and PNC. Customers saw websites jammed and could not access their accounts online temporarily.

So is your money safe? Well, crooks are finding that it’s a whole lot easier to make off with digitial information that to carry sacks of dough out of a bank vault. Experts recommendchanging your passwords often, and looking into your banks policies pertaining to fraud.  Some recommend avoiding debit cards, which do not offer the same protections as credit cards.

Your account may have already been involved in a seucrity breach, and you might not even know it. Banks have financial incentives to hide such breaches if they can away with it. The U.S. Department of Justice has warned them not to hide cybercrime issues.  Recently,Lanny Breuer, assistant attorney general for the department’s criminal division, called cybercrime “one of the most serious threats to national security.”

In addition to banks, cybercriminals could target electrical power, transportation and other critical economic systems.



Lynn Parramore is an author and cultural theorist. Follow her on Twitter @LynnParramore.