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    Jul 19, 2016

    ATM heists: Taiwan nabs 3 foreigners


    TAIWAN yesterday lauded its arrest of three foreign suspects as the world's fastest counterblow against an international syndicate that targets ATMs, after a spate of cyber-heists stole nearly NT$84 million (S$3.5 million) from 34 cash machines on the island.

    According to the police, there were 17 suspects involved in these heists using malware, including seven Russians, six Romanians, a Moldovan and a Latvian, the Liberty Times reported.

    The police pointed out that since 2013, ATMs of 50 banks in Russia had been hacked in the same way, followed by similar attacks in other Eastern European countries and Japan.

    It is believed that more than NT$30 billion was stolen in these foreign heists but not one person was caught nor a cent had been recovered, the police added.

    Sixteen of the suspects struck at the ATMs of Taiwan's First Commercial Bank in Taipei, New Taipei City and Taichung between July 8 and 11.

    On Sunday, three of them were nabbed.

    Latvian Andrejs Peregudovs was spotted in north-eastern Taiwan's Yilan county, where he had been hiding after video footage of him accessing First Bank's ATMs was released to the public.

    The other two were seized in a Taipei hotel after they were caught on CCTVs retrieving money from a locker at the Taipei train station.

    The police have recovered more than NT$60 million but lamented that the others had likely fled Taiwan.

    According to the Liberty Times, a cross-department force was immediately set up after the police received reports on the heists, which were the first of their kind to hit Taiwan.

    Russian media yesterday reported widely on the arrests but Interfax news agency pointed out that it is still not clear how the malware, which instructs ATMs to dispense cash without asking for PINs, works.

    Viruses of two programs were found in Taiwan's hacked ATMs but how they worked without command from the banks' internal server is still a puzzle, Taiwan's China Times reported.