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Attacks/Breaches

Alleged $9 Million Hacking Ring Exposed

Group broke into credit card systems at RBS Worldpay, DoJ says

A group of alleged hackers from Eastern Europe has been indicted on charges of hacking into a computer network operated by the Atlanta-based credit card processing company RBS WorldPay, which is part of the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Eight individuals, mostly from Russia and Estonia, have been charged. The 16-count indictment charges four of the defendants with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit computer fraud, computer fraud, access device fraud, and aggravated identity theft.

The indictment alleges the group used sophisticated hacking techniques to compromise the data encryption that was used by RBS WorldPay to protect customer data on payroll debit cards. Payroll debit cards are used by various companies to pay their employees. By using a payroll debit card, employees are able to withdraw their regular salaries from an ATM.

Once the encryption on the card processing system was compromised, the hacking ring allegedly raised the account limits on compromised accounts, and then provided a network of "cashers" with 44 counterfeit payroll debit cards, which were used to withdraw more than $9 million from more than 2,100 ATMs in at least 280 cities worldwide, including cities in the United States, Russia, Ukraine, Estonia, Italy, Hong Kong, Japan, and Canada. The $9 million loss occurred within a span of less than 12 hours.

The hackers then allegedly sought to destroy data stored on the card processing network in order to conceal their hacking activity. The indictment alleges that the "cashers" were allowed to keep 30 to 50 percent of the stolen funds, but transmitted the bulk of those funds back to the defendants. Upon discovering the unauthorized activity, RBS WorldPay immediately reported the breach.

The four primary defendants each face a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and each wire fraud count; up to five years in prison for conspiracy to commit computer fraud; up to five or 10 years in prison for each count of computer fraud; a two-year mandatory minimum sentence for aggravated identity theft; and fines of up to $3.5 million. The indictment also seeks criminal forfeiture of $9.4 million from the defendants.

This case is being investigated by the FBI. Assistance was provided by international law enforcement partners. The U.S. Secret Service also participated in the investigation. RBS World Pay immediately reported the crime and has assisted in the investigation.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

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