An elaborate international cyber-criminal organization was able to steal more than $45 million dollars in a less than half a day, reminding authorities of the security risks posed by hackers.
The criminals were located around the globe in 26 countries and used ATMs to withdraw the cash from thousands of unsuspecting victims. Investigators said the theft was able to occur after hackers were able to obtain secure information from databases of prepaid debit cards.
The information was then copied to plastic cards with magnetic strips and the foot-soldiers of the crime syndicate went to the various ATMs and collected the loot.
The thefts occurred on Dec. 22 and Feb. 19-20, in which $45 million was stolen facilitated by 36,000 transactions.
"Instead of using masks and guns, this cyber-crime organization used laptops and malware," Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said during a press conference. Lynch called the network "a virtual criminal flash mob."
Authorities revealed that ATMs in New York City doled out $2.8 million. It's the single biggest theft in the city since $5 million was stolen in the famous Lufthansa heist at Kennedy Airport in 1978, which was depicted in the mob movie Goodfellas.
"Unfortunately these types of cybercrimes involving ATMs, where you've got a flash mob going out across the globe, are becoming more and more common," Rose Romero, a former federal prosecutor and regional director for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the New York Daily News.
"I expect there will be many more" of these types of crimes, she added.
Ori Eisen, a cybercrime expert and founder a fraud detection and prevention firm, agreed that as hackers become more sophisticated, more of these types of crimes will become more prevalent.
"Given the scale of the global credit card networks, it is almost impossible to detect every kind of attack," he told CBC. "This attack is not the last one, and if the modus operandi proves to be successful crooks will exploit it time and again."