[ISN] Hacking raid on Sumitomo bank thwarted
isn at c4i.org
Fri Mar 18 02:26:40 EST 2005
By Madeleine Acey
MARCH 17, 2005
Security experts are praising Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. for
admitting that it was the target of a failed $424 million hacking
According to media reports, the U.K.'s National High Tech Crime Unit
(NHTCU) has issued a warning to large banks to guard against
keylogging, the method adopted by the would-be thieves in an attack on
the Japanese bank's London systems. The intruders tried to transfer
money out of the bank via 10 accounts around the world.
Keyloggers record every keystroke made on a computer and are commonly
used to steal passwords. Eighteen months ago, U.S. games developer
Valve had the source code to its latest version of Half-Life stolen
after a virus delivered a keystroke recorder program into Valve's
"Generally, big businesses don't like to talk about any security
problems they may have," said Graham Cluley, senior technical
consultant at security software company Sophos PLC. "Clearly, Sumitomo
did very well, they didn't lose any money, and they involved the
Arthur Barnes at security integrator Diagonal Security agreed. "I
think this is very positive; it warns the rest of the community," he
said. "Someone was always going to have to stand up and say this is
going on. It's very brave. They've really done the right thing. Too
often this sort of thing is swept under the carpet."
The bank has confirmed that a probe is under way and stressed that no
money was lost. But officials declined to offer further details,
citing the ongoing investigation.
"We have undertaken various measures in terms of security and we have
not suffered any financial damage," a spokesman said.
Barnes, who has worked with the NHTCU, said the publicized arrest of a
man in Israel -- along with Sumitomo's confirmation of a plot --
appeared to be an effort to flush out the thieves, and suggests law
enforcement officials know something about them. "It would also serve
as a warning to anyone thinking of doing this kind of thing," he said.
Yeron Bolondi, 32, was seized by Israeli police yesterday after an
alleged attempt to transfer some of the cash into his business
account. He was reportedly charged with money laundering and
In a statement, Israeli police said there had been an attempt to
transfer $26.7 million into the account "by deception in a
Cluley and Barnes said keylogging hacks are more common than thought,
and they said the $423 million plot was probably the largest corporate
case that had been made public. Both experts said it's unclear what
kind of keylogging was used.
Barnes said keyloggers have become more sophisticated, moving away
from software forms to sniffer-type hardware devices. Both he and
Cluley speculated that the would-be thieves may not have actually
hacked into the bank's systems from outside to plant their keylogger.
"They've now got little hardware loggers that are like a dongle that
you place between the keyboard connection and the base unit," Barnes
said. "A cleaner could come in and pop one of these things in. No one
ever looks around the back [of their PC]."
That type of operation would also mean that an organization's level of
encryption or firewall strength could become irrelevant.
He noted that hacker sites offer keylogging software for free.
Keystroke recorders are also sold on seemingly legitimate Web sites,
purportedly for employees to keep an eye on what staff are doing at
No matter how dramatic the Sumitomo case might be, Cluley said attacks
on individuals' machines are an everyday occurrence and users must
remain vigilant. "[We're seeing] 15 to 20 new pieces of malware a day,
and they are worms and Trojans that do keylogging. Individuals
probably don't even know about it. The malware doesn't display a skull
and crossbones or play 'The Blue Danube' over your speakers to
announce its presence."
He urged users to update antivirus software "probably several times a
day and not to forget to install Microsoft patches and install a
"There are constant attempts; it's staggering how much this is going
on," Cluley said.
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