Cyber Threats to a Bank – Part 1: Cybercriminals Target Financial Institutions

Banks and other financial institutions often serve as key targets for malicious activity committed in cyber space. Owing to their large-scale financial operations, banks have always attracted scammers and thieves searching for easy ways to get rich quick. The rapid development of technologies used in the different industries has shifted banking operations to a much more virtual level, opening up new, sophisticated ways for criminal actions to be perpetrated. Aside from traditional, profit-motivated cybercrime, a large part of a bank’s technical infrastructure, such as online banking services, is located on the Internet. This exposes another Achilles’ heel of banking institutions, while serving as a weapon for ideologically motivated hackers trying to undermine a bank’s reputation and normal functioning. In this blog post we will focus on threats coming from the cybercrime arena, the next one describing the hacktivism world is to be followed.

Cybercriminals act from different vectors, such as developing malware for stealing login details for banking sites and applications, extracting credit card data from hacked databases, etc. The main motivation of cyber criminals is financial profit. Subsequently, they use closed web forums and online shops to support their illegal activity and develop new fraud schemes. In most of the cases, financial institutions face one of the following three threats:

Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) Attacks

Also called web injections, this attack method is very popular among cyber criminals targeting the financial sector. If the attack is successful, the hacker manages to infiltrate the web-session between the customer (while he is surfing the bank website) and the bank. He then intercepts the messages sent between the two parts of the conversation, including credentials and classified information, and injects new messages, without arousing the suspicion of either party.

In most cases, the injections are adjusted per victim, and are delivered via banking Trojans, Zeus for example. On closed forums, injections are sold as separate modules for banking malware, or they are offered as a tailored service for cyber criminals targeting a specific bank.

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Examples for web injections offered for sale in Russian forums
Examples for web injections offered for sale on Russian forums

Client Detail Trading

One of the most popular areas of activity on underground forums is the trading of login details to bank websites and client personal data. Typically, this data originates from computers infected with malware designed to steal data inserted into form fields on websites. The operator of the botnet comprising these infected computers will not always use all the stolen data by himself, but may sell it to ‘professionals’ who specialize in cashing out money from these hacked accounts.

A term that should be mentioned in this context is the “drop” – a person who receives the stolen money into his account – sometimes without even knowing that he is supporting illegal activity, as legends and cover stories are frequently used. Drops are usually operated by the buyers of the login details – scammers who have a stabile infrastructure for cashing out stolen money. Posts on the subject of buying and selling credentials are frequently found on closed forums.

 Compromised Credit Cards

Online shops offering different kinds of credit card data for sale are very popular among those cyber criminals specializing in “carding.” These shops are very convenient for their users. They include numerous filtering options, thus matching the data to the scammers needs. Prices may vary considerably, depending on the rarity of the card and the demand for the data of the issuing bank, as well as elapsed time since the data theft.

Credit Cards form Home Depot breach are sold on an underground shop
Credit Cards form Home Depot breach are sold on an underground shop

Related Posts


Two New Banking Trojans Offered for Sale on the Russian Underground July 15, 2014 by Tanya_Koyfman


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