Chinese man arrested in Hong Kong over EUR42 mil. cyber attack in Austria

A Chinese citizen has been arrested in Hong Kong in connection with a cyber attack that cost Austrian aerospace parts maker FACC a total of EUR42 million (HKD364.7 million), Austrian police said yesterday.

FACC fired its chief executive and chief financial officer after the attack, which involved hoax emails asking an employee to transfer money for a fake acquisition project — a kind of scam known as a “fake president incident”.

FACC’s customers include Airbus and Boeing.

A 32-year-old man, who was an authorized signatory of a Hong Kong-based firm that received around EUR4 million (HKD34.7 million) from FACC, was arrested on July 1 on suspicion of money laundering, a spokesman for Austria’s Federal Office for Crime said.

Such attacks, also known as “business email compromise”, involve thieves gaining access to legitimate email accounts inside a company — often those of top executives — to carry out unauthorized transfers of funds.

The technique, which relies on simple trickery or more sophisticated computer intrusions, typically targets businesses working with international suppliers that regularly perform wire transfers.

A spokesman for FACC said the company was working on getting back EUR10 million (HKD86.8 million) which had been found and frozen on accounts in different countries around the world. These EUR10 million are not included in the EUR42 million hit the group has already booked.

The spokesman declined to give details on the arrest or the location of the accounts.

In June, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said identified losses from this scam totaled USD3.1 billion (HKD240.4 billion) and had risen by 1,300 percent in the past 18 months.

Such scams have been reported by 22,143 victims in all 50 U.S. states and in 100 countries around the world.

The FBI said reports indicate that fraudulent transfers have been made to 79 countries with the majority going to Asian banks located in China and Hong Kong.

Another tool for fraud, “ransomware”, which has received much media attention over the past year, refers to malicious software that thieves use to blocks access to a computer until a ransom is paid.

Security experts say the two trends are the fastest growing cyber security threats to businesses worldwide.

Read the FBI report here.


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