IT was an elaborate sting executed with military precision and took £6 million from Royal Bank of Scotland customers in just 12 hours.
Computer hacker Estonian Sergei Tsurikov, 30, was part of a cyber crime gang who organised the online heist using army of thieves using cloned debit cards to target more than 2,000 cash machines in 280 cities worldwide.
Today he was jailed for more than 11 years in a court in Atlanta and was also ordered to pay £5.2 million in compensation to RBS.
The attack was targeted on RBS’s WorldPay payment processing division based in Atlanta, Georgia, in November, 2008.
US prosecutors described it as “one of the most sophisticated and organised computer fraud attacks ever conducted.”
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Tsurikov - who acted along with co-conspirators Viktor Pleshchuk, 32, and Oleg Covelin, 32, - was finally tracked down a year later and extradited to the US.
He admitted conspiracy to commit wire fraud and computer intrusion and has now been sentenced to 11 years and three months imprisonment.
Following the sentencing, US Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said: “A leader of one of the most sophisticated cybercrime rings in the world has been brought to justice and sentenced.
“In just one day in 2008, an American credit card processor was hacked in perhaps one of the most sophisticated and organized computer fraud attacks ever conducted. Almost exactly one year later, the leaders of this attack were charged.
“This prosecution was successful because of the efforts of the victim, and unprecedented cooperation from various law enforcement agencies worldwide.”
The gang hacked into the bank’s system to clone 44 debit cards and discover their PIN numbers.
They electronically hiked the available balances and deleted withdrawal limits on each card before distributing them to a network of foot soldiers, known as “cashers”.
At the stroke of midnight US time, the cashers drained ATMs using the cloned cards.
They struck at machines in Britain, the US, Russia, Ukraine, Estonia, Italy, Hong Kong, Japan and Canada.
During the 12-hour robbery, Pleshchuk and Tsurikov hacked back into the bank’s system to see the transactions taking place on their computer screens.
They obtained just under around £6.3 million between midnight and noon.
The hackers then deactivated the cards and attempted to destroy electronic records of their crime within the bank’s system.
The cashers were allowed to keep 30 to 50 per cent of the cash with the rest being sent electronically back to the hackers.
The gang targeted the bank at the height of the global financial crisis in November 2008, striking just three weeks after RBS chief Sir Fred Goodwin was forced to quit.
Pleschuk, from Russia, was given a suspended sentence on Friday for his part in the fraud while Moldovan Covelin remains at large.
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