Organized cyber criminals stole more than $25 million from small to mid-sized businesses in brazen e-banking heists in the 3rd quarter of 2009 alone, federal regulators said last week. In contrast, traditional stick-up artists hauled less than $9.5 million out of U.S. banks over that same time period last year.
Speaking at the RSA Security Conference in San Francisco last week, David Nelson, an examination specialist with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), said online banking attacks against small businesses of the sort I have chronicled countless times over the past year netted thieves $25 million between July and September of 2009.
I wondered how that stacked up against real-life bank robbers here in the U.S., so I had a look at the FBI‘s published bank crime statistics for that same time period last year. Turns out, traditional bank robbers committed a total of 1,184 bank robberies during those three months, netting slightly more than $9.4 million (including $3,071 in travelers checks).
Small wonder that the haul from cyber bank robberies has overtaken that of physical heists: Cyber thieves take far fewer risks to life, liberty and limb than do real-life bank robbers. In that same three month period last year, the FBI says bank robberies at bricks-and-mortar institutions caused five deaths — all them perpetrators of the crime.
What’s more, the perpetrators of these incessant attacks against small businesses banking online for the most part reside in countries that are traditionally beyond the reach and influence of U.S. law enforcement. Sure, bank robbers occasionally kill people (more often themselves) while they’re stealing your money, instead of silently lifting it out of your bank account from afar like cyber thieves. That alone makes them a more emotional high-value target for the feds. But let’s face it: Traditional stick up artists are a lot easier to collar. For one thing, by necessity they are all here in the United States.
In addition, while traditional bank robbers are limited to the amount of money they can physically carry from the scene of the crime, cyber thieves have a seemingly limitless supply of accomplices to help them haul the loot, by hiring so-called money mules to carry the cash for them.