ONE OF THE BIGGEST BANKS in Taiwan has suffered huge losses after a flying visit by a gang of Russian thieves drained its cash machines of $2.2m in just one weekend.
Taiwanese police said that the attackers jetted in on Friday, spent the weekend emptying ATMs of all their cash across three cities and then jetted home on Monday morning. Intriguingly, perhaps, the thieves targeted Wincor Nixdorf cash machines operated by First Bank.
The thefts were reported to Taiwan's banking regulator, the Financial Supervisory Commission, as the thieves flew home on Monday morning.
Local reports suggest that at least two of the three thieves are Russian nationals, while the bank and police have speculated that they used some form of malware to crack the cash machines' security.
However, surveillance videos released by the bank seem only to show the thieves scooping up the money as the ATMs churn the bank notes out, and don't appear to record any tampering by any members of the gang.
The thieves took cash from 34 machines at 20 branches in Taipei, New Taipei and Taichung.
All of the biggest banks in Taiwan have responded by suspending cash-dispensing from Wincor Nixdorf machines while they are checked for signs of tampering and any evidence of malware.
It's not clear whether the thieves laundered the money before fleeing Taiwan, or had accomplices who helped them launder the cash locally. Another possibility is that they used informal channels to convert the cash and/or send it abroad before they left. Interpol has been alerted in a bid to track down the suspects.
First Bank will be forced by the regulator to bear all the losses from the thefts. The Financial Supervisory Commission has also ordered First Bank to provide a full and public explanation, and to conduct an urgent review into internal controls to avoid similar incidents in the future.
The heist comes after a series of attacks on banks' Swift global payments infrastructure.
Some security researchers have suggested that these attacks were the work of bodies close to, or a part of, the North Korean government after finding similarities in the malware behind the Swift bank attacks and other attacks going as far back as 2009 for which North Korea's 'Office 39' is believed to have been responsible. µ
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