Police foil £220 million attempted bank theft

Police have foiled an audacious attempt to steal £220 million from the London offices of a Japanese banking group, it emerged today.

A high-technology crime ring planned to gain access to Sumitomo's computer systems and transfer money electronically to 10 bank accounts around the world.

But according to the Financial Times, police in Israel yesterday arrested a man whose business account had been the intended recipient of some of the money.

Takashi Morita, head of communications at Sumitomo in Tokyo, told PA that the company had not suffered any financial loss as a consequence of the robbery attempt.

He said: "The case is still in the middle of investigation so we cannot comment further.

"We have undertaken various measures in terms of security and we have not suffered any financial damage."

According to the Financial Times, officers from the National High-Tech Crime Unit have been investigating the theft attempt since October, after the gang gained access to Sumitomo's computer systems and tried to transfer the money. The plan was uncovered before any money was transferred.

The hackers managed to infiltrate the system with keylogging software that would have enabled them to track every button pressed on computer keyboards.

From that they could learn account numbers, passwords and other sensitive information.

The man arrested was seized in Israel after an attempt to transfer £13.9 million into an account there "by deception in a sophisticated manner". He is charged with money laundering and deception.

It is reported that rumours of the attempted theft have been circulating in police and corporate circles since late last year, after the police warned financial institutions.

Steve Purdham, CEO of web security company SurfControl, said the planned theft must be taken seriously by the finance sector.

He said: "Today's news ... must act as a wake-up call for the banking and finance sector and business in general as to the potential damage that Spyware can cause.

"The attempted theft depended on a type of Spyware - otherwise known as 'key-logging' software - to track the passwords of Sumitomo personnel and enable the fraudsters to access secure areas of the network and to begin the process of distributing funds to a number of back accounts around the world."

Mr Purdham said corporations must take "a long hard look" at the various threats they face from sophisticated technology.

He went on: "Spyware is by no means a new threat and has been around in various forms for a number of years, but the difference now is that the criminal community is now starting to exploit it to its advantage.

"Businesses need to be able to stop this type of code from entering the network in the first place, as well as instigating clean-up operations from existing malware - something that can only be achieved through comprehensive content filtering."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project