Bank had no firewall license, intrusion or phishing protection – guess the rest

Crooks used RAT to hijack superusers at India's Mahesh Bank, stole millions

An Indian bank that did not have a valid firewall license, had not employed phishing protection, lacked an intrusion detection system and eschewed use of any intrusion prevention system has, shockingly, been compromised by criminals who made off with millions of rupees.

The unfortunate institution is called the Andra Pradesh Mahesh Co-Operative Urban Bank. Its 45 branches and just under $400 million of deposits make it one of India's smaller banks.

It certainly thinks small about security – at least according to Hyderabad City Police, which last week detailed an attack on the Bank that started with over 200 phishing emails being sent across three days in November 2021. At least one of those mails succeeded in fooling staff, resulting in the installation of a Remote Access Trojan (RAT).

Another technology the bank had chosen not to adopt was virtual LANs, so once the RAT went to work the attackers gained entry to the Bank's systems and were able to roam widely – even in its core banking application.

Hyderabad Police's analysis of the attack found that Mahesh Bank had carelessly allowed its population of super-users to reach ten – some with identical passwords. The attackers compromised some of those accounts and gained access to databases containing customer information including account balances.

The attackers also created new bank accounts and moved customers' funds into those accounts. Over $1 million of such stolen funds were shifted to hundreds of other accounts at Mahesh Bank and other financial institutions.

To complete the heist, the attackers made withdrawals at 938 ATMs across India and made off with the cash.

Hyderabad City Police wrote they were able to spot the attack and freeze another ~$2 million of funds before they could be lifted.

The force's report of the incident is not kind to Mahesh Bank, noting that it had "no proper network infrastructure", took no precautions to isolate head office applications from its branches, lacked many basic security tools, did not train its staff for the eminently foreseeable eventuality of a phishing attack, and did not have a valid license for its firewall at the time of the attacks.

The latter is not uncommon because enterprise software is often priced to western standards, and users in less prosperous nations who find the cost prohibitive roll the dice on unsupported and/or out of date code.

"Investigation so far revealed the hackers, and the main kingpins are located outside India, most likely in UK and Nigeria," Hyderabad City Police has stated. "The amount withdrawn is transferred to Nigeria, most likely through Hawala or crypto currencies."

Hyderabad Police has detailed the attack in the video below – most of which is not in English, but does feature diagrams in that language. ®

Youtube Video

Other stories you might like

  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading
  • Conti: Russian-backed rulers of Costa Rican hacktocracy?
    Also, Chinese IT admin jailed for deleting database, and the NSA promises no more backdoors

    In brief The notorious Russian-aligned Conti ransomware gang has upped the ante in its attack against Costa Rica, threatening to overthrow the government if it doesn't pay a $20 million ransom. 

    Costa Rican president Rodrigo Chaves said that the country is effectively at war with the gang, who in April infiltrated the government's computer systems, gaining a foothold in 27 agencies at various government levels. The US State Department has offered a $15 million reward leading to the capture of Conti's leaders, who it said have made more than $150 million from 1,000+ victims.

    Conti claimed this week that it has insiders in the Costa Rican government, the AP reported, warning that "We are determined to overthrow the government by means of a cyber attack, we have already shown you all the strength and power, you have introduced an emergency." 

    Continue reading
  • China-linked Twisted Panda caught spying on Russian defense R&D
    Because Beijing isn't above covert ops to accomplish its five-year goals

    Chinese cyberspies targeted two Russian defense institutes and possibly another research facility in Belarus, according to Check Point Research.

    The new campaign, dubbed Twisted Panda, is part of a larger, state-sponsored espionage operation that has been ongoing for several months, if not nearly a year, according to the security shop.

    In a technical analysis, the researchers detail the various malicious stages and payloads of the campaign that used sanctions-related phishing emails to attack Russian entities, which are part of the state-owned defense conglomerate Rostec Corporation.

    Continue reading
  • FTC signals crackdown on ed-tech harvesting kid's data
    Trade watchdog, and President, reminds that COPPA can ban ya

    The US Federal Trade Commission on Thursday said it intends to take action against educational technology companies that unlawfully collect data from children using online educational services.

    In a policy statement, the agency said, "Children should not have to needlessly hand over their data and forfeit their privacy in order to do their schoolwork or participate in remote learning, especially given the wide and increasing adoption of ed tech tools."

    The agency says it will scrutinize educational service providers to ensure that they are meeting their legal obligations under COPPA, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

    Continue reading
  • Mysterious firm seeks to buy majority stake in Arm China
    Chinese joint venture's ousted CEO tries to hang on - who will get control?

    The saga surrounding Arm's joint venture in China just took another intriguing turn: a mysterious firm named Lotcap Group claims it has signed a letter of intent to buy a 51 percent stake in Arm China from existing investors in the country.

    In a Chinese-language press release posted Wednesday, Lotcap said it has formed a subsidiary, Lotcap Fund, to buy a majority stake in the joint venture. However, reporting by one newspaper suggested that the investment firm still needs the approval of one significant investor to gain 51 percent control of Arm China.

    The development comes a couple of weeks after Arm China said that its former CEO, Allen Wu, was refusing once again to step down from his position, despite the company's board voting in late April to replace Wu with two co-chief executives. SoftBank Group, which owns 49 percent of the Chinese venture, has been trying to unentangle Arm China from Wu as the Japanese tech investment giant plans for an initial public offering of the British parent company.

    Continue reading
  • SmartNICs power the cloud, are enterprise datacenters next?
    High pricing, lack of software make smartNICs a tough sell, despite offload potential

    SmartNICs have the potential to accelerate enterprise workloads, but don't expect to see them bring hyperscale-class efficiency to most datacenters anytime soon, ZK Research's Zeus Kerravala told The Register.

    SmartNICs are widely deployed in cloud and hyperscale datacenters as a means to offload input/output (I/O) intensive network, security, and storage operations from the CPU, freeing it up to run revenue generating tenant workloads. Some more advanced chips even offload the hypervisor to further separate the infrastructure management layer from the rest of the server.

    Despite relative success in the cloud and a flurry of innovation from the still-limited vendor SmartNIC ecosystem, including Mellanox (Nvidia), Intel, Marvell, and Xilinx (AMD), Kerravala argues that the use cases for enterprise datacenters are unlikely to resemble those of the major hyperscalers, at least in the near term.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022