Police have foiled a plot to steal millions of pounds after a gang took control of a bank's computer remotely.
Scotland Yard described the cyber-attack on a Santander branch in Surrey Quays shopping centre, in south-east
A man posing as maintenance engineer fitted a keyboard video mouse (KVM) device to a computer within the branch, allowing the transmission of the complete desktop contents of the bank computer over the network.
Police said the men were about to be in a position to execute their operation when the plot was foiled and multimillion-pound losses were prevented. The bank said no money was ever at risk.
Twelve men were arrested on Thursday on suspicion of conspiracy to steal from Santander after a long-term, intelligence-led operation by Scotland Yard's central e-crime unit (PCeU), working in conjunction with the banking industry.
A 34-year-old man was arrested in Vauxhall, south
A Santander spokesman said none of its staff were involved in the plot. "Santander was aware of the possibility of the attack connected to the arrests," he said. "The attempt to fit the device to the computer in the Surrey Quays Branch was undertaken by a bogus maintenance engineer pretending to be from a third party.
"It failed and no money was ever at risk. No member of Santander staff was involved in this attempted fraud. We are pleased that we have been able, through the robustness of our systems, to prevent the fraud and help the police gather the evidence they needed to make the arrests."
Dr Eerke Boiten, from the University of
"It captures all the information that goes to the screen, keyboard and mouse. If you manage to get it installed inside the computer, it gives you a way of contacting the device through a remote computer," Boiten said. "This is what people use for controlling a big server remotely. You basically can control a computer inside that bank branch. With one such device you can do as much damage as an individual teller can, within the bank."
He said that because of the potential for fraud, bank branches would typically limit access to the internet and have a very strong firewall to prevent computers being remotely accessed, but the number of people arrested suggested a sophisticated operation bent on getting around this.
"This is not just one guy trying to install this thing and see if he can get through to the internet," said Boiten.
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