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It Could Happen to You: The Threat of Foreign Hackers

Vol. 24 Issue 2

Post Categories: Tech, Web Exclusives

Hackers living overseas may pose the greatest cyberthreat to American small businesses.

“Right now, it’s a perfect storm with Eastern European and former Soviet Republic governments not caring if their people hack American business bank accounts,” said former FBI agent Jeff Lanza. “The unemployment rate is so high and the job opportunities are so low in those places that it’s causing people to go into the business of financial hacking.”

Hackers in the United States “may be involved to some extent” in financially hacking businesses whose defenses are down, Lanza said, but American cyberthieves aren’t nearly as active as their counterparts in European countries where the rule of law is questionable.

“They’ve always had better hackers over there, number one,” Lanza said. “But the truth is, if I’m a hacker here in this country and I hack into some business account, where am I going to send the money? It’s going to go to another bank account in the U.S., and eventually, the authorities are going to trace it and find out who owns that bank account.

“But if I send the money to a bank account in the Ukraine, that’s where it stops. An FBI agent can’t go over to the Ukraine and say, ‘Can you tell me who this person was? We’d like to make an arrest and get the money back.’”

Collusion between foreign hackers and bankers is also common, Lanza said.

“Let’s say you’re a hacker in the Ukraine or even in Russia who steals money out of a business account in the U.S.,” he said. “When you go to the bank and try to withdraw the money, the banker’s not going to say, ‘Hey, I’m calling the police because I just recognized that you scammed some American business.’ The banker’s going to say, ‘Give me my cut, and I’ll give you the rest.’ Because that’s how they operate over there.”