Network Security, Vulnerability Management

Account takeover still common, but getting detected faster

Banks are still getting hit hard by hackers who take over corporate accounts, but financial institutions are doing a better job at spotting the fraud before any money is drained out, according to a new survey.

The report from the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC), released Thursday, polled 77 banks. Twenty-one said their corporate customers were victimized by account seizures, in which cybercriminals gain control of an organization's bank account, usually by stealing login credentials through malware or phishing.

Of the reported takeovers, 86 occurred in 2009, but that number rose to 108 in the first six months of 2010, the survey showed.

The positive news, however, is that banks are detecting the fraud at a faster rate. In 2010, 36 percent of the reported cases resulted in transfers being created, but stopped, before they were sent to a money mule account. That number rose from 20 percent in 2009.

The crooks were successful in wiring out funds in 27 percent of the reported takeovers, but that number was well down from 63 percent two years ago, the survey revealed.

Avivah Litan, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, said the banking professionals with whom she regularly speaks are investing more of their security budget than ever in deterring online banking and electronic money transfer fraud, and bolstering user authentication – all with the goal of stemming corporate account takeovers, which cost organizations, mostly small entities, an estimated $87.5 million in 2010, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

"I can tell you one thing is for sure," Litan told on Thursday. "Banks are taking this much more seriously."

She added that as banks get better at curbing these types of attacks, criminal activity likely will migrate to another avenue, including card skimming or "prepaid" fraud, in which miscreants use stolen cards to purchase prepaid gift cards, which they then use to make fraudulent purchases.

In June, the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) released guidance to its members around authentication.

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