FBI warns of top cyber threat

FBI warns of top cyber threat
Updated: Aug. 15, 2018 at 9:05 PM CDT
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(WVUE) - From ATM attacks to intrusions into your personal emails, the FBI's cyber program is responsible for addressing and preventing all types of computer crimes.

Imagine millions of dollars stolen from ATMs around the world all in a matter of moments. The FBI says it could happen. Agents say cyber criminals may be preparing for a coordinated fraud scheme called an "ATM cash-out." They say hackers could use malware to access and alter account balances and security features to make an unlimited amount of cash available.

While hackers are specifically targeting banks in this operation, FBI agents say the one of the greatest threats at home and abroad can affect anyone.

"We're looking at about a $3 billion loss for the United States," says Assistant Special Agent in Charge Drew Watts.

Watts says this type of crime is classified as the BEC or "Business Email Compromise."

"They compromise people's email accounts and they become that person, they take on that persona of that individual and they take on your life. They take on what you do during the day, they figure out who you're talking with, and they become you. And they can cause wire transfers that are fraudulent," Watts explained.

What's more, Watts says the size of the transaction makes little difference. A hacker may pretend to be you, request to close your account and take your money, or the scammer could use you to go after someone else.

"Imagine you're a title company trying to facilitate the transfer of funds between real estate agencies, and that real estate agent is not a real person, it's a fraudulent person and they cause a wire transfer. That devastates multiple victims, people lose their money, they can't buy the house, they can't move forward and now the money has gone overseas," said Watts.

"They can be residing on the other side of the world and still affect what happens here in Louisiana," Eric Rommal said.

Rommal is the Special Agent in Charge of the National Security Branch in New Orleans. He says the task of keeping global cyber criminals at bay can sometimes prove daunting, but his agents have help.

"We cannot do this alone. This is a fight that we have to fight every day, and believe me, it is a fight," said Rommal.

Rommal says the FBI cyber program's partnerships allows agents to be proactive instead of reactive.

"It ranges from private to public sector, state and local law enforcement to help us get ahead of those threats by sharing that intelligence. And I think that's where this all begins is the ability to share the intelligence ahead of the threat before anyone is affected," Rommal explained.

It's also why Rommal encourages the public to report any cases of cyber crime that could help the FBI stay ahead of the curve.

The FBI says a bank in Virginia lost $2.4 million to Russian hackers in two separate ATM cash-outs - one in May 2016 and another in January 2017.

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