Of Money Mules and Cyber Criminals

Oct 27, 2008

A new article by Roel Schouwenberg, Senior Antivirus Researcher at the Kaspersky Lab, has drawn attention to the increased use of malware in cyber attacks on financial institutions.

The Russian researcher explains the methods used – from social engineering to phishing and Trojan Downloaders – which show that the trend seems to be away from universal attacks and towards malware aimed at specific banks in specific regions, the ideal target being a bank with a large customer base and lax security. "Many banks which use single-factor authentication are vulnerable to relatively simple attacks," writes Schouwenberg.

Although the number of malicious emails is declining, the preferred method of attack is via the Internet for a number of reasons. Whereas malware sent by email is easily detected, a malicious program sent via the web will infect the web server, which means it can be modified easily by the cyber criminals, making it almost impossible for antivirus researchers to analyze, "...so a drive-by download using exploits is obviously an attractive method" the researcher warns. Phishing attacks are still popular, with too many users not fully understanding how the scam works.

Accessing stolen funds is another aspect of cyber crimes examined by the researcher. This is where the money mule, often recruited via seemingly legitimate job offers, comes into play. The mule makes their bank account available for transactions and then, with services like Moneygram or E-Gold, transfers 85-90 percent of the money. Criminals will often use several mules simultaneously, keeping transactions small and thereby avoiding attention. The complete article can be read at: http://www.viruslist.com/en/analysis?pubid=204792037/

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