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Crackdown of hackers urgently needed to stem on-line banking fraud
Publication Date : 06-08-2013
Online banking fraud by hackers must be contained. There appears to be no end to incidents in which hackers steal money after illicitly gaining access to other people’s bank accounts via the Internet.
According to the National Police Agency, money was illicitly transferred to perpetrators’ accounts in about 400 cases during the January-July period. The money involved was estimated at 360 million yen (US$3.65 million) and 12 banks, including major ones, were compromised.
Illicit money transfers by hackers are reportedly occurring at a record pace.
The number of people using banking services via the Internet, which is convenient for shopping and tax payments, is said to be growing sharply. Many small and medium-sized companies also use Internet banking for settlement of funds. As Internet banking is becoming more widely used, the system has become a magnet for hackers.
To gain access to a victim’s bank account online, hackers use computer viruses, often surreptitiously inserted in e-mails sent by unknown originators or in free software available online. When a personal computer is infected with such a virus, the ID number and password of a user making an online banking transaction is leaked to the perpetrator.
People affected by perpetrators using forged cash cards are compensated through the deposit protection law. Banks also provide compensation when damage occurs via online banking services. However, there are cases where users are not compensated if they are found to be grossly negligent.
It is essential for users of online banking services to protect themselves on a regular basis by, for instance, refraining from downloading software from dubious sites and constantly updating antivirus software.
The banking industry and the police authorities must cooperate in taking effective measures against hackers.
Last year, the Japanese Bankers Association agreed to introduce passwords in which numeric combinations changed every time an online banking transaction was made.
However, there are already cases involving accounts at some of the banks in which a new type of virus has made such efforts ineffectual. A major task in the future will be working out how to deal with the extremely sophisticated and complex tactics employed by hackers.
According to an NPA analysis of the online banking damage wrought by hackers, 70 per cent of bank accounts into which illicit money has been transferred are believed to be held by Chinese nationals.
The Kanagawa prefectural police headquarters last month arrested several Chinese on suspicion of computer fraud and abuse. All of them allegedly withdrew money, which had been transferred illicitly via hackers, from automated teller machines. According to their confessions and records of their cell phone communications, the arrested Chinese were found to have been in contact with hackers based in China.
As long as the ringleader of a hackers group can evade the long arm of the law, similar crimes will occur, as others will be used to withdraw money from the ATMs. Authorities must first identify the main perpetrators of the crime, including those responsible for creating viruses.
After that, the Japanese police authorities should seek assistance from their Chinese counterparts via the International Criminal Police Organization to crack down on such crime organisations.