Cyber blaggers autoplunder bulging accounts on Euro pay network

'Operation High Roller' rascals in mass slurpening


Cybercrooks have developed a Trojan that targets high-value accounts linked to the European SEPA payments network.

The highly targeted malware-based scam is an extension of the ongoing Operation High Roller, according to Intel's McAfee security division. Fraudsters have siphoned off tens of thousands from SEPA-linked accounts after infecting the computers of only a few dozen or so targets with accounts at two German banks.

Openly accessible logs on a control server behind the scam allowed McAfee researchers to work out that €61,000 in fraudulent SEPA transactions had been run against accounts held at just one of these banks.

SEPA (Single Euro Payments Area) is a payment-integration initiative of the European Union that covers all 27 EU member states, three European Economic Area countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) and Switzerland and Monaco. It is similar to the Automated Clearing House banking network in the United States.

SEPA transactions make no distinction between domestic and cross-border transactions within the EU. So crooks only need to use money mule accounts as dropboxes for stolen funds and more sophisticated automated attacks can be applied than is possible with normal online banking fraud, as McAfee explains.

The latest attack targets the German banking industry with a targeted ATS [automated transfer system] designed with SEPA in mind. The malicious "webinjects" target two German banks with a specially crafted JavaScript payload deployed to about a dozen of their online banking customers that have SEPA as an option, keeping this attack very targeted in nature.

The targeted nature of such malware tends remain undetected for a time. Thus, these campaigns are hard to discover because they infect only dozens of customers, rather than hundreds or more.

The transaction server used in this attack is hosted in Moscow and hosts a separate control panel for each of the targeted banks. Although the control panel isn’t sophisticated, the machinery that acts behind the scenes is complex.

The ZeuS-style banking malware at the heart of the attack injects itself into the browser process of compromised machines before attempting to initiate withdrawals of between €1,000 and the SEPA transaction maximum of €100,000. The malware hides security alerts and transaction records.

These malware-based tricks are not new, and frauds against automated wire transactions have been seen before. The main significance of the latest attacks, as McAfee researchers point out, is that cybercrooks are beginning to target different types of payment channels, such as SEPA. ®

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