High-tech thieves put spyware in the spotlight

Antivirus companies are struggling to deal with keystroke loggers, a security expert claims, as investigations continue into the attempt to steal £220m from a Japanese bank

In the wake of the attempt to steal hundreds of millions of pounds from Sumitomo Mitsui Bank (SMB), security experts have warned that antivirus products are struggling to prevent the spread of spyware such as keystroke loggers.

Keystroke loggers — which are thought to have played a key role in the failed robbery — can either be hardware devices or software — which could be carried by an email virus.

"Although antivirus software gives some sense of protection, people have to understand the false level of security there," said Paul Wood, chief information security analyst at MessageLabs. "Antivirus companies struggle to deal with spyware. Antivirus packages don't know if programs have been installed with user permission or not."

"It goes to show that if you have sufficiently strong auditing, you have at least a chance of catching it before it's too late," Wood added.

Police foiled the attempted robbery after they discovered that thieves tried to transfer £220m from SMB to ten bank accounts in ten different countries. Yaron Bolondi, the 23-year-old Israeli who is being held by authorities in Tel Aviv in connection with the robbery attempt, has reportedly been charged with money laundering and fraud.

The UK's National Hi-Tech Crime Unit is working with Israeli authorities and are said to be investigating other suspects.

Click here to read more about the SMB heist attempt and the dangers of keystroke loggers.