* UK police say case the most sophisticated of its kind
* Santander UK says no staff involved in case
* Lawmakers warned UK losing battle against cyber crime
By Matt Scuffham
LONDON, Sept 13 British police said on Friday
they had smashed an "audacious" and sophisticated plot to take
control of the bank Santander UK's computer systems and
steal millions of pounds.
Detectives, who described the plot as the most significant
case of its kind, said they had arrested 12 men who had
allegedly fitted a device in a Santander branch in southeast
London capable of transmitting the entire desktop contents of
the bank computer.
"In effect, this allowed the suspects to take control of the
bank computers remotely," said a spokesman for London's
"The device had been fitted and officers believed that the
group would imminently have been in a position to go
operational," he said, adding they had avoided
Santander UK said a bogus maintenance engineer pretending to
be from a telecoms firm had fixed the device, which police
described as a keyboard video mouse, to a computer in the Surrey
It said it had been aware of the alleged fraud and had
worked closely with officers, adding no staff members had been
"It failed and no money was ever at risk," the bank said.
"Santander operates multiple levels of controls to protect
customers' funds and this attack would not have been
Detectives from the Metropolitan Police's Central e-Crime
Unit said they had arrested 11 men at an address in west London
and another man in central London on Thursday, while houses
across the capital were raided.
The 12 suspects, aged between 23 and 50, are being held in
custody at a London police station.
Cyber crime has become a major threat to companies and
financial institutions. In July, U.S. federal prosecutors
charged five men responsible for a hacking and credit card fraud
spree that cost companies more than $300 million, the biggest
cyber crime case filed in U.S. history.
A week later, a panel of lawmakers said that Britain was
losing the battle against cyber crime and needed a new crack
crime unit to fight the growing problem.
The cost of cyber crime to the British economy is estimated
to be between 18 billion and 27 billion pounds ($28.5-42.7
billion) and British financial services firms lost a total of
5.4 billion pounds as a result of fraud last year, according to
Fraud cost retail banks 475 million and online banking fraud
cost 40 million pounds.
London police said Thursday's arrests were the result of a
long-term, intelligence-led operation and had been achieved by
working in partnership with banks.
"This was a sophisticated plot that could have led to the
loss of a very large amount of money from the bank, and is the
most significant case of this kind that we have come across,"
said Detective Inspector Mark Raymond.