Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Sensational Heists

The Biggest Robbery Attempt in History

Sumitomo Mitsui Bank, London
Sumitomo Mitsui Bank, London

During the late summer and fall of 2004, a group of criminal hackers vigorously tried to infiltrate Japanese bank Sumitomo Mitsuis computer system at their London offices. Their plan was allegedly to steal approximately $423 million and electronically transfer the money to ten accounts around the world. It was a near-success until the scheme was uncovered in October 2004 during an investigation code-named Operation Blossom, which was devised by British cyber-cops from the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTC), BBC News reported. If the robbery had been successful, it would have dwarfed Britains previous record, the armed theft of $50 million from Belfasts Northern Bank, Gregg Keizer said in a March 2005 TechWeb News article.

National Hi-Tech Crime Unit
National Hi-Tech Crime Unit

The criminals purportedly used a form of spyware known as keyloggers, which is used by hackers to steal passwords, accounts numbers and other secret information from an individuals personal or business computer. Investigators are trying to figure out how the hackers were able to penetrate the system. Keizer quoted Richard Stiennon, the vice president of threat research at anti-spyware vendor Webroot, saying that they could have gotten a keylogger onto the banks network by tricking an employee in the company or walking into the bank and sitting at an employees terminal or they could have broken into the network another way and only noticed then that a machine was already infected with a keylogger. 

The investigation into the elaborate hacking scheme is still under investigation. Thus far, eight people have been arrested in connection to the crime but none have yet been sentenced. One of those arrested was Israeli citizen Yeron Bolondi, 32, who police captured trying to transfer around $27 million into an account in his homeland. Israeli police charged him with money laundering and deception, CNN suggested in a March 2005 article. The identity of the other hackers has been kept quiet so as not to hinder the ongoing investigation.

Man at computer
Man at computer

Internet robbery has been increasing at an unprecedented rate. Criminals are learning that they can steal enormous amounts of cash with less physical risk than an actual robbery and using limited resources from the luxury of their own home. Even more worrisome, hackers are developing new and more sophisticated means to abstract personal information from computers, making it easier for less-experienced criminals. Thus, people will have to be especially diligent about securing their computers, so as to reduce the chances of their becoming the hackers next victim.

 

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