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17 Mar 2005

Massive internet bank robbery foiled, but Trojan horse menace increasing says Sophos

Trojan horses which capture keypresses can lead to hackers emptying your bank account.

Sophos sees threefold increase in keyboard-logging Trojan horses

Experts at SophosLabs™, Sophos's global network of virus and spam analysis centres, are warning computer users that they need to be on their guard against keyboard-logging Trojan horses, as news reports reveal that police have foiled an attempt to steal £220 million from the London offices of a Japanese bank.

Sophos warns that it is not just large banking corporations who can suffer from hacking and software which captures keystrokes. Small businesses and home users are vulnerable to Trojan horses and worms which lurk in the background on PCs, spying on everything that occurs on the computer - including secretly capturing every keypress and sending them to criminal hacking gangs.

"Over the last year, we have seen a dramatic rise in the number of new viruses, worms and Trojan horses designed to steal the keystrokes of innocent computer users. Sophos's labs produce protection daily against approximately 15 new pieces of malware which include this sinister payload, compared to 5 a day a year ago," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "The information stolen by this kind of phishing attack can be equivalent to someone watching over your shoulder as you type your password into the computer. Hacking gangs are actively hunting for vulnerable computers in order to steal information and empty bank accounts."

According to media reports, a high-tech gang gained access to the bank's computer systems. It has not been revealed how they did this, nor - despite speculation in the press - confirmed if they used a keyboard logging Trojan horse to spy on desktop computers at the bank, capturing keypresses. The gang are said to have planned to transfer money electronically to 10 bank accounts around the world. Police in Israel are said to have arrested a man whose account had been the intended recipient of some of the money, but it appears the robbery failed and the bank suffered no financial losses as a result of the hacking.

The British banking industry has published information about how online bank customers can take steps to stay safe online at

"More and more malware is being written by criminals, designed to steal bank account information from innocent computer users," continued Cluley. "All internet users need to ensure their computers are properly defended with the latest up-to-date protection software, and make sure they are not putting themselves in jeopardy."

Sophos recommends that companies protect their email with a consolidated solution to thwart the virus and spam threats as well as secure their desktop and servers with automatically updated anti-virus protection. Additionally, computer users should ensure they are defended by personal firewalls and the latest Microsoft security patches.

About Sophos

More than 100 million users in 150 countries rely on Sophos as the best protection against complex threats and data loss. Sophos is committed to providing complete security solutions that are simple to deploy, manage, and use and that deliver the industry's lowest total cost of ownership. Sophos offers award-winning encryption, endpoint security, web, email, mobile and network security solutions backed by SophosLabs - a global network of threat intelligence centers.

Sophos is headquartered in Boston, US and Oxford, UK. More information is available at