“Account takeover” is when cyber-thieves gain control of bank accounts by stealing the valid online banking credentials. Although there are several methods being employed to steal credentials, the most prevalent involves malware that infects a computer workstations and laptops.
A computer can become infected with malware via infected documents attached to an e-mail or a link contained within an e-mail that connects to an infected web site. In addition, malware can be downloaded to users’ workstations and laptops by visiting legitimate websites
-especially social networking sites-and clicking on the documents, videos or photos posted there. This malware can also spread across an internal network.
The malware installs key logging software on the computer, which allows the perpetrator to capture a user’s credentials as they are entered at the financial institution’s web site. Sophisticated versions of this malware can even capture token-generated passwords, alter the display of the financial institution’s web site to the user, and/or display a fake web page indicating that the financial institution’s web site is down. In this last case, the perpetrator can access the account online without the possibility that the real user will log in to the web site.
Once installed, the malware provides the information that enables the cyber-thieves to impersonate the business in online banking sessions. To the financial institution, the credentials look just like the legitimate user. The perpetrator has access to and can review the account details, including account activity and patterns, and ACH and wire transfer origination parameters (such as file size and frequency limits, and Standard Entry Class (SEC) Codes).
The cyber-thieves use the sessions to initiate funds transfers, by ACH or wire transfer, to the bank accounts of associates within the U.S. These accounts may be newly opened by accomplices or unwitting “money mules” for the express purpose of receiving and laundering these funds. The accomplices or mules withdraw the entire balances shortly after receiving the money, and then send the funds overseas via over-the-counter wire transfer or other common money transfer services.
The cyber-thieves appear to be targeting small-to medium-sized businesses, as well as smaller government agencies and nonprofits, for several reasons:
1. Many small businesses and organizations have the capability to initiate funds transfers -ACH credits and wire transfers -via online banking (individual consumers generally do not have this capability except for payees set up in online bill payment systems);
2. Small businesses often do not have the same level of resources as larger companies to defend their information technology systems.
3. Many small businesses do not monitor and reconcile their accounts on a frequent or daily basis;
4. Small businesses bank with a wide variety of financial institutions with varying degrees of IT resources and sophistication.
1. Reconcile all banking transactions on a daily basis.
4. Perform periodic risk assessment of the banking products/services you use; including; regular reviews of user access levels, dollar limits and activity.
5. Immediately report any suspicious transactions to the financial institution.
1. Install a dedicated, actively managed firewall. A firewall limits the potential for unauthorized access to a network and computers.
2. Install commercial anti-virus software on all computer systems.
3. Ensure virus protection and security software are updated regularly.
4. Ensure computers are patched regularly, particularly operating system and key applications, with security patches.
5. Consider installing spyware detection programs.
6. Be suspicious of e-mails purporting to be from a financial institution, government department or other agency requesting account information, account verification or banking access credentials such as user names, passwords, PIN codes and similar information. If you are not certain of the source, do not click any links.
7. Be suspicious of pop-up boxes asking you to update your contact information (phone numbers) at any time, even if the pop-up box occurs just after you have logged in to online banking.
8. Create strong passwords.
9. Prohibit the use of “shared” usernames and passwords for online banking systems.
10. Use a different password for each website that is accessed.
11. Change the password several times each year.
12. Never share username and password information with third-party providers.
13. Limit administrative rights on users’ workstations.
14. Carry out all online banking activities from a stand-alone computer system from which e-mail and Web browsing are not possible.
15. Verify use of a secure session (“https”) in the browser for all online banking.
16. Avoid using an automatic login features that save usernames and passwords for online banking.
17. Never leave a computer unattended while using any online banking or investing service.
18. Never access bank, brokerage or other financial services information at Internet cafes, public libraries, etc. Unauthorized software may have been installed to trap account number and sign on information leaving the customer vulnerable to possible fraud.
If you experience any of the above please follow these procedures:
1. Immediately cease all activity from computer systems that may be compromised. Disconnect the Ethernet or other network connections to isolate the system from remote access.
3. Maintain a written chronology of what happened, what was lost and the steps taken to report the incident to the various agencies, banks and firms impacted. Be sure to record the date, time, contact telephone number, person spoken to, and any relevant report or reference number and instructions.
4. File a police report and provide the facts and circumstances surrounding the loss. Obtain a police report number with the date, time, department, location and officer’s name taking the report or involved in the subsequent investigation. Having a police report on file will often facilitate dealing with insurance companies, banks, and other establishments that may be the recipient of fraudulent activity. The police report may initiate a law enforcement investigation into the loss with the goal of identifying, arresting and prosecuting the offender and possibly recovering losses. This document is for information purposes and is not intended to provide legal advice. The guidance included is not an exhaustive list of actions and security threats change constantly.Sources:
NACHA and the Financial Services-Information Sharing and Analysis Center