How much money do cybercriminals earn?

Kaspersky Lab’s recent research demonstrates that cyber-stealing is a very profitable and well-organized crime.

When you read about hundreds of thousands of viruses that appear each day, you may wonder, who puts so much effort in development of this malware and why. The answer is simple ― they are criminals and they do it because it is very, very profitable. Our researchers have discovered an Internet server being used for controlling an attack targeting users of a large European bank. Log files from this server show that in just one week criminals stole more than 500,000 Euros from a bank’s clients and transferred these funds to accounts, controlled by thieves.

In the 20th century, a robbery of this scale would have required some cars, firearms, and a handful of very brave people, because this “business” is very risky. In the 21st century, the robbery involved a banking Trojan, some servers to spread it and control a Trojan when it altered peoples’ money transfers, plus a bunch of not so brave people called ‘mules’ or ‘drops’, who actually received the stolen funds into their accounts and cashed out.

Criminals don’t target a bank itself, they hack a bank’s clients individually by installing a Trojan on their computers. They may use phishing and exploits to do that.

Controlling ‘mules’ is actually the trickiest part of the operation, that’s why modern robberies are still conducted by organised criminal gangs. This specific heist, which we called Luuuk, involved some clever tricks to control money mules. You can dig deeper in the dedicated Securelist blogpost.

It is worth noting, that Kaspersky Internet Security and Kaspersky PURE include the technology called Safe Money that combines multiple protection measures to counteract most banking Trojans and prevent the aforementioned kind of theft from end users.