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Swedish prosecutors initiated a huge trial after a number of private and public organisations were hacked. Eight people are reportedly standing on trial for the criminal charges that saw at least 40 million Swedish kronor (£3.6 million) stolen or mishandled.
If convicted, the alleged perpetrators could face eight years in jail for their criminal conduct. The exact number of victims has not been confirmed.
The criminal hacker group reportedly hijacked computers and set up social engineering attacks to steal money from a number of organisations and individuals. The Swedish Prison and Probation Service was hit by a breach, along with 20 companies, four banks, a number of law firms, and private individuals also.
The incident reportedly began with computer systems being hacked to steal user IDs and passwords. Having gained access, the hackers released malware and manipulated administration tools to learn how the organisations communicated and conducted their business. From there, they are said to have made sophisticated and tailored emails with files containing more malware for employees to click on. Once clicked, the malware would then allow the hackers full access to its network and systems.
Having breached their victims’ systems, the hackers redirected money to various accounts inside and outside of Sweden, with some of the money that made it overseas being traced to Kosovo and Hong Kong. A maximum sentence limits the trial to 40 million kronor, but the amount the hackers redirected and appropriated may actually have been a lot more.
In one fraud effort, major bank Swedbank was made to pay out 4.3 million kronor.
According to his lawyer, the main suspect admitted to several counts of fraud but gave the excuse that he only acted on other people’s instructions. His lawyer, Jan-Anders Hybelius, has apparently said:
“…the money did not go to him. His financial compensation was very modest, the way I see it.”
The 38-year-old suspect is the only one to be accused of data breach attacks, with the others only being accused of fraud.
The Swedish Democrat Party said that they also received fraudulent emails from the perpetrator(s), but did not act upon them. The party’s spokesman, Henrik Vinge, said:
“…unfortunately these kinds of e-mails are quite common in society and we have procedures for how to handle them.”
Security firm Nixu said the fraud wasn’t exactly sophisticated, and that its success was largely down to scale and planning. The breaches are thought to have been entirely preventable and easy to stop.
Jesper Svegby, CEO of Bitsec, warned that, “as society becomes increasingly digital, ensuring effective protection against this type of crime requires new approaches and structures from various parties in society. Organisations need to lift their information security to management and board level. In addition, society must realise its vulnerability and require more interaction within and between police, prosecutors and companies and organizations facing cyber-threats.”
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