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Hackers stole £648 million from hundreds of banks

High-profile bank robberies no longer include balaclavas, guns and getaway cars. There's no more "everybody be cool, this is a robbery“ screaming, while old ladies, waiting in line for their pensions, look in awe.

According to Interpol, Europol and computer security firm Kaspersky Labs, high-profile heists now include a couple of individuals scattered worldwide, a few computers and a lot of brain power.

A group of cyber criminals from Russia, Ukraine and China robbed up to 100 banks, payment systems and other financial institutions worldwide and stole more than a billion dollars (£648 million).

It's estimated that the robberies were carried out since 2013, and it took between two and four months to attack each bank.

The hackers "left“ each of the robbed banks with more than $10 million (roughly £6.5 million).

Kaspersky Labs have found evidence of $300 million (£195m) stolen, and fears the number could be tripled.

Banks in 30 countries including Russia, the US, Germany, China and Canada were hit by the attack, which is thought to be one of the largest bank thefts ever.

"These bank heists were surprising because it made no difference to the criminals what software the banks were using," said Kaspersky Lab's principal security researcher, Sergey Golovanov, IBTimes reports (opens in new tab).

"It was a very slick and professional cyber robbery."

So how did they do it? Unlike previous thefts, where thieves targeted customers, this group went after the banks themselves. They used malware called Carbanak that enabled them to look at the bank's computers.

After that, they programmed the ATMs to offload the money automatically at pre-defined times.

Sead Fadilpašić is a freelance tech writer and journalist with more than 17 years experience writing technology-focussed news, blogs, whitepapers, reviews, and ebooks. And his work has featured in online media outlets from all over the world, including Al Jazeera Balkans (where he was a Multimedia Journalist), Crypto News, TechRadar Pro, and IT Pro Portal, where he has written news and features for over five years. Sead's experience also includes writing for inbound marketing, where he creates technology-based content for clients from London to Singapore. Sead is a HubSpot-certified content creator.