Billion dollar heist hits local banks

Banks in Tanzania are among those in an ongoing online seige by hackers. Photo: Daniel Hayduk

Banks in Tanzania are among those hit in an ongoing online siege by hackers, who have managed to get away with up to $1 billion dollars USD since 2013. Photo: Daniel Hayduk

If you haven’t paid close attention to your bank statements lately, now might be a good time.

A global network of hackers has drained accounts at over 100 banks and financial institutions, including ones in Tanzania, in a billion dollar world-wide heist that is still ongoing, says internet security company Kaspersky Labs.

The Citizen has named NBC Bank as being hit in the heist, dubbed Carabanak,  but says ‘virtually all mainstream local banks’ have also been hit in a variety of other card-skimming schemes.

Describing the heist as “very slick and professional cyber-robbery,” Kaspersky’s principal security researcher Sergey Golovanov says the hackers have learned to hide behind legitimate actions.

After infecting a bank employee’s computer, the hackers have taken the time to study their movements, so they can mimic legitimate behavior of a bank employee without raising alarm.

They will either outright steal money using online bank transfers or e-payments or penetrate the accounting system to inflate balances and transfer the extra funds — leaving the account holder with their original balance and none the wiser.

The same malware, dubbed Carabanak, can also control ATMs, leading to voluntary payouts at predetermined times.

Card skimming and other ATM theft is on the rise in Tanzania.

According to the Citizen, billions of shillings have been stolen nationally — nearly 50,000 dollars (100 million shillings) have been stolen from accounts at University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) community alone in recent months.

The withdrawals are coming from England and Italy using cloned cards, say staff at UDSM, who are now taking legal action against their banks to get their money reimbursed.

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