Gang held over "audacious plot" to take over Santander UK computers

By Matt Scuffham

LONDON (Reuters) - British police said on Friday they had smashed an "audacious" and sophisticated plot to take control of the bank Santander UK's computer systems and steal millions of pounds.

Detectives, who described the plot as the most significant case of its kind, said they had arrested 12 men who had allegedly fitted a device in a Santander branch in southeast London capable of transmitting the entire desktop contents of the bank computer.

"In effect, this allowed the suspects to take control of the bank computers remotely," said a spokesman for London's Metropolitan Police.

"The device had been fitted and officers believed that the group would imminently have been in a position to go operational," he said, adding they had avoided multi-million-pound losses.

Santander UK said a bogus maintenance engineer pretending to be from a telecoms firm had fixed the device, which police described as a keyboard video mouse, to a computer in the Surrey Quays branch.

It said it had been aware of the alleged fraud and had worked closely with officers, adding no staff members had been involved.

"It failed and no money was ever at risk," the bank said. "Santander operates multiple levels of controls to protect customers' funds and this attack would not have been successful."

LONG-TERM OPERATION

Detectives from the Metropolitan Police's Central e-Crime Unit said they had arrested 11 men at an address in west London and another man in central London on Thursday, while houses across the capital were raided.

The 12 suspects, aged between 23 and 50, are being held in custody at a London police station.

Cyber crime has become a major threat to companies and financial institutions. In July, U.S. federal prosecutors charged five men responsible for a hacking and credit card fraud spree that cost companies more than $300 million, the biggest cyber crime case filed in U.S. history.

A week later, a panel of lawmakers said that Britain was losing the battle against cyber crime and needed a new crack crime unit to fight the growing problem.

The cost of cyber crime to the British economy is estimated to be between 18 billion and 27 billion pounds and British financial services firms lost a total of 5.4 billion pounds as a result of fraud last year, according to government data.

Fraud cost retail banks 475 million and online banking fraud cost 40 million pounds.

London police said Thursday's arrests were the result of a long-term, intelligence-led operation and had been achieved by working in partnership with banks.

"This was a sophisticated plot that could have led to the loss of a very large amount of money from the bank, and is the most significant case of this kind that we have come across," said Detective Inspector Mark Raymond. (Additional reporting by Clare Hutchison, Brenda Goh and Michael Holden; Editing by Laura Noonan and Ralph Boulton)

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

Kallis, Narine star in Knight Riders’ crushing win

Kallis, Narine star in Knight Riders’ crushing win

An all-round display saw Knight Riders thump Mumbai Indians by 41 runs in the IPL-7 opener. More »

Pietersen to miss Delhi's first game

Pietersen to miss Delhi's first game

The former England batsman will have to lead the franchise as he is out of the match against Bangalore with a finger injury. More »

Srinivasan named in fixing report: SC

Srinivasan named in fixing report: SC

The court emphasised that the tainted administrator can no longer work for the BCCI. More »

'If you do the wrong thing it will be found out'

'If you do the wrong thing it will be found out'

'Everyone knows what is right and what is wrong and if you do the wrong thing it will be found out' More »

Why I'm not looking forward to the IPL

Why I'm not looking forward to the IPL

Welcome to another season of a league that many watch but few trust. More »

Mitchell Johnson may quit T20s for Test cricket

Mitchell Johnson may quit T20s for Test cricket

Australia's Mitchell Johnson may quit limited-overs cricket to prolong his test career with an eye on the 2015 Ashes series in England, the fast bowler… More »

There's a lot going on: Fleming

There's a lot going on: Fleming

He experienced anxious moments in the lead-up to the tournament as the courts decided on whether to suspend the franchise, he said, but stressed that the… More »

Latif couldn’t work with tainted players

Latif couldn’t work with tainted players

Former Pakistan cricket captain Rashid Latif said Tuesday he turned down the job of national chief selector because he could not work with ex-players tainted… More »

We are not over-confident: Bailey

We are not over-confident: Bailey

Indian Premier League — George Bailey-led Kings XI Punjab will face Chennai Super Kings on Friday. More »

Taxing issue — BCCI hits roadblock

Taxing issue — BCCI hits roadblock

MoU between BCCI & its units to avoid double taxation delayed after a few decline to share details. More »

Big runs expected, with bat and ball

Big runs expected, with bat and ball

Royal Challengers Bangalore: Their main concern, once again, is the fast bowling More »

Black Caps pick rookie duo for West Indies

Black Caps pick rookie duo for West Indies

New Zealand selectors included two new caps in a 15-man Test squad named Tuesday to tour the West Indies, with injury-hit spinner Dan Vettori's future… More »

The stage is set for IPL-7 to start

The stage is set for IPL-7 to start

The Preview — Defending champions Mumbai Indians take on Kolkata Knight Riders More »

Srinivasan appeals to court to allow BCCI comeback

Srinivasan appeals to court to allow BCCI comeback

He was aggrieved by the allegations against him during the hearing. More »

Klinger on his exit from South Australia

Klinger on his exit from South Australia

Michael Klinger has revealed he felt compelled to leave South Australia after being told he would be only a fringe part of the Redbacks' plans for next season, and disputed the suggestion that he left… More »

India: cricket's Brazil

India: cricket's Brazil

They are tough to beat with a big talent base exposed to good facilities. (CYCSPL) More »

Delhi Daredevils say no to gifts

Delhi Daredevils say no to gifts

Franchises are doing their bit to refurbish the image of the tainted league. More »

India-Pakistan Test series likely in 2015

India-Pakistan Test series likely in 2015

The revival of Indo-Pak Test ties could take place in UAE. More »

Kohli hopes to end RCB trophy drought

Kohli hopes to end RCB trophy drought

'This time around we will hope to go few more steps ahead and actually get that trophy' More »

Gavaskar can help IPL regain glory

Gavaskar can help IPL regain glory

Apart from the foreign players a lot of behind-the-scene activity has taken place in selecting the Indian domestic players. More »

Tendulkar, Ganguly to promote soccer

Tendulkar, Ganguly to promote soccer

Leading Spanish club Atletico Madrid and former cricketers Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly are among the owners of eight franchises of a new Indian… More »

This isn’t my first trip to India: Neesham

This isn’t my first trip to India: Neesham

Kiwi all-rounder wants to utilise the India leg to explore the country’s tourist attractions. More »

Ishant wanted to quit ODIs

Ishant wanted to quit ODIs

Says his mother made him change his mind. More »