More than 60 people have been charged in international schemes that used computer viruses to steal millions of dollars from bank accounts throughout the U.S., reports the Los Angeles Times. “The modern, high-tech bank heist does not require a gun, a mask, a note or a getaway car,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in New York City. “It requires only the Internet and ingenuity. And it can be accomplished in the blink of an eye, with just a click of the mouse.” The cyber attacks began in Eastern Europe and included malware known as the Zeus Trojan, which was typically sent in an e-mail to computers at homes, businesses, and government offices in the United States. Once the e-mail was opened, the virus embedded itself in the victims’ computers, recording their keystrokes and capturing user names and passwords as they logged in to online bank accounts.
Yesterday’s U.S. crackdown was related to the arrests Tuesday in London of 19 people suspected of stealing more than $9 million from bank accounts in England. The hackers used the stolen account information to take over victims’ bank accounts and transfer thousands of dollars at a time to bank accounts controlled by other participants in the schemes. The schemes relied on “mules” who set up U.S. bank accounts to receive wire transfers and then make cash withdrawals.