Authorities in the US have arrested more than 80 “mules” involved in large scale bank fraud. Although the masterminds are still at large, and probably in Eastern Europe, these arrests show the massive size and success of the fraud operation. Cyber crime has become a virtual economy.
The Zeus banking Trojan enabled hackers to secretly monitor the victims’ computer activity, enabling them to obtain bank account numbers, passwords, and authentication information as the victim typed them into the infected computer, the FBI said.
The scheme relied on individuals known as “money mules” in the United States to actually steal money, the FBI said. Bharara said those arrested consisted almost entirely of mules and four people who managed them.
“The hacking rings we see today take on a more organized approach, similar to a drug cartel or a cyber-mafia,” Bar Yosef says. “There is a hierarchy with employees that have a distinct role in the scheme — the researcher looking for different ways to infect machines, the botnet farmer operating the bots, the botnet dealer renting the bots, and the actual ‘consumer’ who monetizes on the virtual goods received by the bot.