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Putting in place a sophisticated digital racket, hackers were able to steal millions of dollars from up to 100 banks in what the Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab is calling "the most successful criminal cyber campaign we have ever seen."
Kaspersky, which helped uncover a piece of malicious software in the systems of bank computers, says the scheme worked like this: First the hackers were able to install malicious software on computers by phishing bank employees. That led to the infection of hundreds of machines.
The hackers kept watch until they found the computer of an administrator. That's when they recorded the screen and keystrokes to learn the system. Eventually, they mimicked the staff and transferred large sums of money from banks in Russia, Switzerland, Japan, the United States and the Netherlands to dummy accounts in other countries.
In other cases, they simply instructed ATMs to dispense money at certain times, where a conspirator would collect it. Perhaps in a sign of the hackers' sophistication, each bank robbery took two to four months from the infection of the computer to cashing the money out.
Kaspersky was first alerted to the scheme by a piece of code hiding in an infected ATM. The company investigated for months and eventually pieced together what was going on.
Kaspersky said it cooperated with police and learned that up to 100 institutions were targeted.
"In at least half of the cases the criminals were able to extract money from the infected institution. Losses per bank range from $2.5 million to approximately $10 million," Kaspersky said in a statement.
The New York Times, which reported on the heists over the weekend, says that projection is impossible to verify, and the White House and FBI said they had been briefed and are still working to confirm and then "assess the losses."
The Times adds:
"No bank has come forward acknowledging the theft, a common problem that President Obama alluded to on Friday when he attended the first White House summit meeting on cybersecurity and consumer protection at Stanford University. He urged passage of a law that would require public disclosure of any breach that compromised personal or financial information.
"But the industry consortium that alerts banks to malicious activity, the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center, said in a statement that 'our members are aware of this activity. We have disseminated intelligence on this attack to the members,' and that 'some briefings were also provided by law enforcement entities.' "
Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) was a Baptist minister and civil rights leader. In November 1983, President Reagan signed legislation creating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, making it the third national holiday born in the twentieth century. The first was Veterans Day, created as a "prayer for peace" in 1926. Memorial Day came second in 1948. In 1956, Dr. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Honor King's memory with this online expedition into his life and achievements.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has warned of "dire consequences" if tech companies can't protect the privacy of those who use their products.
Giving up our privacy to digital technologies exposes us to greater risks than just identity theft and financial losses--serious though those things are, Cook said in a brief speech at a cybersecurity summit in Silicon Valley on Friday.
"History has shown us that sacrificing our right to privacy can have dire consequences," Cook said.
"We still live in a world where all people are not treated equally," he said, "where too many people do not feel free to practice their religion or express their opinion or love who they choose, a world in which that information can make the difference between life or death."
He may have been alluding to oppressive regimes that punish citizens for political beliefs or their sexual orientation. But speaking to an audience that includes U.S. policy makers, Cook's remarks are also a reminder of the government's need to protect privacy as it conducts its digital surveillance campaigns.
"If those of us in positions of responsibility fail to do everything in our power to protect the right of privacy, we risk something far more valuable than money. We risk our way of life," he said.
BOSTON (AP) -- Exasperated New Englanders still digging out from three major storms that left 6 feet of snow in many areas are bracing for what's expected to be another punishing winter blast.The National Weather Service has issued a blizzard watch from Cape Cod to coastal Maine beginning Saturday evening. The storm could bring a foot or more of snow to some areas, with winds gusting to 70 mph and the potential for coastal flooding.Bill Simpson, a weather service meteorologist, called it a "monster storm" that will likely bring blizzard conditions to the already hard-hit New England coast."Snow amounts will not be as much as the previous big storms, but still, when you have 8 to 14 inches of snow, wind driven-snow, the cold air and the snow that is already there it's probably going to be very difficult for a lot of people," he said.If there was a silver lining, Simpson said the track of the storm is likely to stay far enough off shore to avoid crippling impacts and reduce the amount of snowfall inland. It will also hit over a holiday weekend, which could minimize the effect on travel, though it could disrupt some Valentine's Day plans, with the storm expected to begin Saturday afternoon before intensifying overnight into Sunday.A spokesman for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority said no decision had been made on whether to suspend service on the Boston-area transit system during the storm, as it has been forced to do during previous storms.On Thursday, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh suggested that the MBTA should shut down over the weekend, but he reversed course Friday and said closing the system would "pose an incredible hardship to workers and people living throughout Boston."In Massachusetts, National Guard troops have been called up to assist with snow removal, and the Hanscom Air Force base outside Boston has become a staging area for heavy equipment coming from neighboring states to help in the effort. Walsh said two machines capable of melting 135 tons of snow per hour arrived from New York City on Thursday, along with backhoes, dump trucks and front-end loaders from others states.With schools on vacation next week, some families been leaving Boston's Logan International Airport early to beat the storm.