What are the banks not telling us about card fraud?

Reports that a Russian hacker has pleaded guilty of ripping off WorldPay, the online transaction processor, to the tune of $10 million, have met with a grim smile by Lieberman Software, the identity management specialist.

The methodology used by the 27-year-old hacker is a potential worst-case scenario that he and his team warn potential and existing clients about.

Not only did this guy manage to hack into WorldPay’s systems back in 2008, but he then altered the parameters of the merchant accounts and boosted their online daily limits. From there he withdrew large amounts of cash from ATMs as he travelled the world.

The case is a fascinating one as, by pleading guilty, it’s unlikely we’ll ever find out how this team of hackers managed to stiff the former RBS card processing division for an incredibly large sum of money.

When you think about it, the only way that Yevgeny Anikin could have increased the withdrawal limits on the merchant accounts was by gaining access to an internal management account with the card processor. The whole affair smacks of a lack of security on privileged accounts, which is an area of security in which we specialise.

As with all major card frauds of this type, however, this case involves the hacker ringleader pleading guilty, thereby preventing the actual processes used by the fraudsters(s) being revealed in an open court.

We’ve been through our fraud records and are finding it difficult to come up with a major card fraud case involving hacking where the fraudster(s) have pleaded not guilty, and the case has gone to court. Time after time the fraudsters mysteriously plead guilty, are sentenced and the financial institution gets away without revealing the chinks in their electronic armour.

What are the possibilities of that happening? Quite low, actually, especially when you realise that this case was heard in a Siberian court, in a country where all sorts of unusual results come out of the courts, such as political rivals of President Putin mysteriously being incarcerated for years on end.

The bottom line is that you don’t have to be conspiracy theorist to piece together what is happening: the card processing system is far from being infallible, and the banks are going to great lengths to avoid exposing how insecure their systems really are in an open court.

Of course, if I’m wrong, I’ll be perfectly happy to discuss this issue with WorldPay or any other financial institution whose systems have been hacked and defrauded – and where the criminals have pleaded not guilty.

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Philip Lieberman, the founder and president of Lieberman Software, has more than 30 years of experience in the software industry. In addition to his proficiency as a software engineer, Philip is an astute entrepreneur able to perceive shortcomings in existing products on the market, and fill those gaps with innovative solutions. He developed the first products for the privileged identity management space, and continues to introduce new solutions to resolve the security threat of privileged account credentials. Philip has published numerous books and articles on computer science, has taught at UCLA, and has authored many computer science courses for Learning Tree International. Philip has a B.A. from San Francisco State University.