Edinburgh, United Kingdom, May 10, 2013 --(PR.com
)-- A recent cyber-heist in the USA has highlighted the danger facing unwary members of the public. A professional gang of cyber-thieves hacked into the bank account of a state hospital in the USA, Chelan County Public Hospital no. 1, in Washington State. They stole more than one million dollars from the hospital’s payroll account, according to a report by the security researcher Brian Krebs (see http://krebsonsecurity.com/2013/04/wash-hospital-hit-by-1-03-million-cyberheist).
What happened next to the stolen money is an interesting twist on an age-old tale. The organised hackers moved batches of the money electronically into the personal bank accounts of residents of the USA who had signed up with them. These US residents then transferred the bulk of the money to third-party bank accounts overseas, keeping only an agreed percentage of it.
These “money mules” believed they were part of a legitimate work-from-home scheme involving the transfer of money to overseas businesses. In fact, they were being unwittingly used in money-laundering, as a cheap and efficient way for the hackers to siphon money into their own bank accounts undetected. Many of the “mules” would have suspected nothing until their own bank froze their account due to suspicious activity. Some may have responded to spam emails offering work, while others were contacted by the gang after posting their CV’s to legitimate recruitment websites.
Information security company commissum (http://www.commissum.com), based in Edinburgh, Scotland, highlights the implications of this episode. Martin Finch, Director of commissum, stated: “This recruitment of unwitting accomplices is a worrying development in the spread of cyber-crime. Increasingly we are seeing highly organised and professional operations, which can evade detection long enough to steal a considerable amount of money. But the key element here is the recruitment of accomplices to carry out the money-laundering.”
In the past few years, as the economic recession has taken its toll in the West, more and more people are eager for work of any kind. One of the “money mules” interviewed by the security researcher Brian Krebs had been out of work for more than two months when he was contacted by the gang. Naturally, he accepted the offer without asking too many questions. Martin Finch of commissum comments again: “The public need to be very wary about offers of work that originate from the Internet. Even if it appears to be a legitimate business opportunity, you could end up as an unknowing accomplice, laundering the proceeds of crime. This may have an effect on your bank account, and could cause difficulties for you in the future.”
As the criminals become ever more sophisticated, the public must likewise become more educated and aware. Quite apart from any legal or financial penalties, it can be embarrassing to learn that one has been so thoroughly duped. As part of its policy of corporate responsibility and good citizenship, commissum is eager to play its part in alerting the public to the increasing dangers of cyberspace.