Thirty hacking attempts targeting a Finnish Internet bank had come to light on Thursday afternoon. The tabloid Ilta-Sanomat was the first to report the attempted thefts when the number of attacks had risen to twenty.

The first of the cyber attacks took place in mid-December and the most recent was around the New Year.

”At the moment it seems likely that the malware used in the online frauds was installed on customers’ computers,” explains Detective Inspector Tero Muurman from the National Bureau of Investigation.

The hacker attacks were discovered by a Finnish bank.

”So far, all the victims have been customers of one particular bank,” reveals Muurman.

”We’re not revealing the name of the bank yet as doing so could lull the customers of other banks into a false sense of security. It’s premature to claim that other banks are safe from similar attacks.”

On Friday, police did not yet have any more detailed information on the type of the malware used or on the way the program works, making it difficult to speculate who is behind the attacks or why one particular bank has been targeted.

”The malware being able to be installed on customers’ computers points at the hackers exploiting a vulnerability in these computers.”

In all cases, the hackers have tried to steal considerable sums of money.

”We are talking about sums amounting to 1,000 euros each or more,” says Muurman.

In recent years, the number of cyber attacks has increased during the period running into Christmas. In 2011, American credit cards were used to order massage oil for the then-president Tarja Halonen, and in 2012 the websites of various Finnish media companies came to a standstill as a result of deliberate efforts to disrupt their services.

”People have unusually large amounts of money in their accounts before Christmas after receiving their tax refunds at the beginning of December. People are also preoccupied with their Christmas shopping,” Muurman speculates.

”The hackers may have assumed that the thefts wouldn’t be spotted amidst all other online transactions. Banks are also closed over the Christmas holidays.”

Muuranen stresses the importance of computer security. Having anti-virus software installed on the computer is not an adequate security measure if the program is not updated regularly, along with the operating system and other software on the computer.

”It’s an arms race as harmful software programs are being developed non-stop. Knowledge on information security should be part of people’s general knowledge,” Muuranen stresses.

”Perhaps people should think of using an old computer for surfing online and another, newer one for online banking purposes.”

Laura Halminen – HS
Niina Woolley – HT
Image: Roni Rekomaa / Lehtikuva