Rogue hardware used in attempted cyberheist at Santander bank branch

One criminal impersonated a maintenance engineer and tried to attach a KVM switch to a bank computer for remote control purposes

A criminal gang attempted to plant a rogue hardware device on the network of a Santander bank branch in London to remotely control a computer and steal money.

The U.K.'s Metropolitan Police arrested 12 men Thursday in connection with the foiled plot which it referred to as an "audacious attempt" and said it was the most significant case of its kind.

The criminal gang attempted to attach a device known as a KVM (keyboard video mouse) switch to a computer at a Santander branch in the Surrey Quays Shopping Centre in southeast London.

If the plot to plant the device had succeeded, it would have allowed criminals to control the bank's computer remotely and potentially steal a lot of money.

"The attempt to fit the device to the computer in the Surrey Quays Branch was undertaken by a bogus maintenance engineer pretending to be from a third party," a Santander representative said Friday in an emailed statement. "It failed and no money was ever at risk. No member of Santander staff was involved in this attempted fraud."

The Metropolitan Police has dealt with cases that involved the use of rogue hardware devices like KVMs before, but this was the first incident when a criminal network attempted to use this particular type of device, a police spokesman said.

"Like many other hacking attempts, the game plan of the hackers in this case was to be able to get information on transactional and customer data held on the computers within the bank to use for financial advantage," said David Emm, senior security researcher at Kaspersky Lab, via email. The method used by the group was sophisticated, involving the use of both hardware and software, he said.

"This attempt should remind organisations that a holistic approach needs to be taken toward security," Emm said. "It's not just the IT security methods that need to be scrutinised, but the people within the organisation as well."

With this case involving planting a physical device inside the bank's branch, it is clear that organizations need to keep an eye out for physical security breaches in addition to software infiltrations, the researcher said.

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