Germans recall Phishing scam that wiped out their bank balances; protocol gap in network blamed

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The shock-wave that sent many an unsuspecting bank account holders in Germany, shivering on a mid-January morning this year, didn’t come from the freezing winds or snow storms, usual at this time of the year.

For them, it was the devastating news that their bank accounts have been totally wiped out, by unscrupulous hackers, who managed to intercept their details of personal identity, password and other account information.

As the story unfolded, O2, a leading mobile phone seller in the country, confirmed that it had fallen victim to the cyber crime due to a weakness in the protocol used by the telecom networks, for two-factor verification.

O2 confirmed that the telecom network was hacked from the back-end and the two-factor verification codes that were transmitted by the banks to their customers were intercepted by the cyber criminals. The hackers then made their getaway after re-routing fund transfers online to unauthorized accounts.

The SS7 protocol was used by the attackers to re-route the transfers. The operation was made easier by intercepting mobile transaction authentication numbers which the banks used to send money transfers.

The cyber crime detected in Germany was part of a large number of similar incidents that happened across the world, where data breaches were the reasons for hacks.

Ina report on cyber crime, Verizon, the company that researches on cyber security lapses and breaches, reported that ransomware incidents had risen over 50% over the previous year.

42,068 incidents of hacking and cyber crime were reported during the year from 84 countries worldwide. The top three industries hacked were financial services, healthcare, and public sector services. Retail trade and accommodation services also found that they had fallen victims to the crime.

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