The U.S. government has charged eight individuals with stealing debit card data from two Middle Eastern banks in a scheme that prosecutors said netted $45 million in a matter of hours -- a crime they called one of the biggest bank heists in history.
A New York-based group hacked into credit card processors' computers to steal MasterCard debit card data, which they used to make about 36,000 transactions over a total of 10 hours in 24 countries, the U.S. Justice Department said.
The cards were issued by National Bank of Ras Al-Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates and Bank of Muscat in Oman, prosecutors said.
The case demonstrates that cyber crime still poses a major threat to banks around the world. Security experts frequently identify electronic fraud as one of the major challenges facing banks today.
"Hackers only need to find one vulnerability to cause millions of dollars of damage," said Mark Rasch, a former federal cyber crimes prosecutor, based in Bethesda Md. "This prosecution demonstrates that we need to be continuously vigilant."
Authorities said they arrested seven of the eight defendants, all residents of Yonkers, New York. They are Jael Mejia Collado, Joan Luis Minier Lara, Evan Jose Peña, Jose Familia Reyes, Elvis Rafael Rodriguez, Emir Yasser Yeje and Chung Yu-Holguin.
The eighth defendant charged in the indictment, Alberto Yusi Lajud-Peña, also known as Prime and Albertico, was murdered on April 27 in the Dominican Republic, according to prosecutors.