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Finjan : Cybercriminals use Trojans and Money Mules to Loot Online Bank Accounts

September 2009 by Finjan

Finjan Inc. unveiled new research from its Malicious Code Research Center (MCRC), which uncovered new techniques used by cybercriminals to rob online bank accounts.

Finjan sees the techniques described in this report as the start of a new trend that is expected to grow. These techniques add functionality aimed to minimize detection by traditional anti-fraud technologies in use by banks. More than a year ago Finjan identified the Zeus bank Trojan which today has become one of the most popular Trojans used by cybercriminals to steal money from banks’ customers worldwide.

In its Cybercrime Intelligence Report, Finjan’s Malicious Code Research Center (MCRC) shows how a cybergang used a combination of Trojans and money mules to rake in hundreds of thousands of Euros and to minimize detection by the anti-fraud systems used by banks.

The cybercriminals used compromised legitimate websites as well as fake websites, utilizing the crimeware toolkit LuckySpoilt to infect visitors. After infection a bank Trojan was installed on the victims’ machines and started communication with its Command & Control (C&C) server for instructions. These instructions included the amount to be stolen from specific bank accounts and to which money mule accounts the stolen money should be transferred. Furthermore, the Trojan forged onscreen bank statements concealing the true transaction amount to dupe the account holders and their banks.

The cybercrime intelligence report covers the following:

· Cybercriminals use sophisticated crimeware tools to steal money online and avoid detection · They use compromised legitimate websites as well as fake ones to infect visitors with their crime toolkit · Once infected, the Trojans get instructions from its Command &Control center to rob bank accounts · Instructions include criteria for the amount that should be stolen from an individual account · This method is a highly-effective, “Anti anti-fraud” system detection tool · Once the money is stolen, the Trojan creates a forged bank statement to hide the theft · The stolen money is transferred to a money mule account and then forwarded to the cybercrooks to prevent any direct money trail · The cybergang was able to steal Euro 300,000 in 22 days

“As reported previously by Finjan, cybercriminals continue to follow the money, with bank accounts steadily remaining a favourite among their targets. To avoid detection, cybercriminals continue to improve their methodologies for stealing money and going under the radar from the victims and banks alike. With the combination of using sophisticated Trojans for the theft and money mules to transfer stolen money to their accounts, they minimize their chances of being detected,” said Yuval Ben-Itzhak, CTO of Finjan. “In this case, the specific criteria that the Trojan received from its Command & Control center mark a whole new level of cybercrime sophistication in the techniques used by cybercriminals. Using these methods they successfully evade anti-fraud systems that banks deploy – we dubbed it the Anti anti-fraud.”

The report shows in detail how this cybergang worked and provides recommendations how individuals and banks can protect themselves.

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