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Major Cyber Security Breach Affects 22 Pakistani Banks

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By Marissa Bergen 
Contributor, InCyberDefense

Despite attempts to prevent or minimize cybercrime, illicit incidents still occur worldwide.

For example, more than 19,000 debit cards worth $2.6 million were recently stolen from 22 Pakistani banks. The Pakistan Tribune called the theft the biggest cybercrime ever to hit the country’s banking system.

On October 27, officials of the Bank Islami noticed abnormal transactions involving one of its international payment card plans. During these transactions, a cybercrime group cashed out $2.6 million.

The theft was traced back to October 26, when hackers released a dump of Pakistani credit and debit cards on dark web forums in an action said to be linked to the breach. More than 8,000 of the cards belonged to at least nine Pakistani banks and were being sold at prices ranging from $100 to $135 each. The dump put up by the hackers, titled “PAKISTANWORLD-EU-MIX-01” along with 10,467 records, went on sale on Jokerstash, a site on the Dark Web.

On October 28, the Bank Islami issued a news release announcing that the institution was the victim of a cybercrime. The State Bank of Pakistan followed suit, announcing that the compromised cards were cashed out via ATMs and POS in different countries including the United States and Russia. As a result of the announcements, at least six other Pakistani banks temporarily suspended credit card cash withdrawals transactions.

On October 31, there was a second dump under the PAKISTAN-EU-MIX-01 title, this one comprising 11,000 cards from as many as 21 Pakistani banks.

How Did It Happen?

Details of the crime are still being investigated, but it is thought that the credit card data might have been acquired through skimming, whereby illegal devices placed over ATM and POS keyboards gather, or “skim,” data from legitimate credit or debit cards. The cybercriminals then transfer the data to the stolen cards to make fraudulent transactions online or in person. They also sell the illegal cards on the Dark Web.

It’s not known yet where the skimmers were installed or where the dumps were acquired. It’s possible the people responsible for the crime were foreign visitors who used the cards themselves and then put the dumps on sale on the Dark Web. Another possibility is that the criminals were locals who were helping out more sophisticated criminals outside Pakistan.

The case is under investigation. In the meantime, there is not much that can be done to counter the stolen information. Pakistani authorities are urging everyone to check POS and ATM machines before using their cards to make sure they do not contain skimmers.

With so many protective measures in place worldwide, it is surprising to learn of a cybercrime  on such a large scale. We can only continue to protect our homes and offices as best we can.

About the Author

Marissa Bergen is a freelance writer from Brooklyn, New York. Passionate about everything from fashion to technology, her writing experience has increased her awareness of digital marketing, cybersecurity and the ever-expanding World Wide Web. She now lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two children. Google her to find out more about her writing and her other life as a bass player in her family band, The CheeseBergens.


Wes O'Donnell

Wes O’Donnell is an Army and Air Force veteran and writer covering military and tech topics. As a sought-after professional speaker, Wes has presented at U.S. Air Force Academy, Fortune 500 companies, and TEDx, covering trending topics from data visualization to leadership and veterans’ advocacy. As a filmmaker, he directed the award-winning short film, “Memorial Day.”

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