FBI Warning: Cyber Crooks Pilfering SMBs of Millions

Paul Mah
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The FBI and Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC) issued an alert earlier this week warning SMBs in the U.S. to be vigilant for unauthorized wire transfers to China economic and trade companies that are located near the Russian border. The reason for the warning: The FBI has identified 20 incidents in which the online banking credentials of small- and mid-sized businesses in the United States were compromised and used to initiate illicit wire transfers to the tune of $20 million.


Many of the companies that have received the money are registered in port cities such as Raohe, Fuyuan, Jixi City, Xunke, Tongjiang and Dongning. Each transfer ranges from $50,000 to $985,000, and as you can imagine, the money was swiftly made off with. The report (pdf) observed:

When the transfers went through successfully, the money was immediately withdrawn from or transferred out of the recipients' accounts.

Actual losses from successful transfers so far have been pegged at $11 million, though it should be noted that this took place over a mere span of two months - March 2011 to April 2011. Clearly, this is a highly sophisticated racket run by hackers who are in it for the big time. So why target SMBs instead of the enterprise? I personally believe these hackers are attracted to small- and mid-sized businesses due to the ease of hitting these comparatively "softer" targets for a still-lucrative payoff.


According to the report, the attack vector appears to be via the use of phishing emails or when victims are tricked into visiting a malicious website. A Trojan is surreptitiously installed onto the workstation of the staffer with the authority to initiate fund transfers, where it quietly harvests the online corporate banking credentials of the user's account.


As reported on Computerworld, Avivah Litan, an analyst at Gartner, is not impressed by SMBs succumbing to phishing attacks and unpatched vulnerabilities. Litan highlighted the dismal state of SMB security:

These attacks are using the same techniques that have been used for a couple of years against business bank accounts and more recently against enterprise systems and security companies.

For now, businesses keen to protect their corporate accounts from being taken over might want to refer to this fairly comprehensive guide put together by the FBI, IC3 and FS-ISAC titled, "Fraud Advisory for Business: Corporate Account Take Over."

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