21 April 2019
One of the First Commercial Bank branches in Taiwan where the ATMs were attacked by hackers. Photo: Facebook
One of the First Commercial Bank branches in Taiwan where the ATMs were attacked by hackers. Photo: Facebook

HK banks strengthen ATM security after Taiwan cyber heist

Local banks have stepped up the security of their automated teller machines following a daring cyber heist in Taiwan last week in which hackers were able to steal more than NT$70 million (US$2.17 million) from dozens of ATMs on the island, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The hacked ATMs were manufactured by German company Wincor Nixdorf, the same supplier of ATMs used by many banks in Hong Kong, the newspaper said.

It was learned that about 750 ATMs in the city were supplied by Wincor Nixdorf, including those used by Standard Chartered Bank, OCBC Wing Hang Bank, HSBC (Hong Kong), Bank of China (Hong Kong) and Hang Seng Bank.

That suggests that the ATMs in Hong Kong could also fall prey to similar cyber attacks.

According to Taiwanese authorities, two Russian suspects, one of whom was identified as Sergey Berezovskiy by his immigration record, entered Taiwan last Thursday and took advantage of the distraction provided by Typhoon Nepartak to pull off the ATM heist.

They reportedly hit 34 ATMs, all of which are Wincor 1500xe model and located at 20 branches of First Commercial Bank, between Saturday and Sunday.

The two suspects were able to flee the island while their Taiwanese accomplice remained at large.

Initial investigation showed that the suspects were able to get money from the ATMs without inserting bank cards or touching control panels, suggesting that they had hacked into the ATM system before physically withdrawing the cash from the machines.

A spokesman for the Hong Kong Monetary Authority said it is working with local banks, the Joint Electronic Teller Services Ltd. (JETCO), the police and ATM suppliers to understand the whole situation.

Hong Kong police declined to comment.

An HSBC (Hong Kong) spokesman said in reply to media enquiries that it has taken precautionary measures to prevent any situation similar to the ATM heist in Taiwan from happening in Hong Kong.

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