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Hackers steal $44.47 million from ATMs worldwide in massive cyber heist

Woman uses ATM machine in Bank Of Cyprus in Nicosia. The Cypriot banking crisis has sparked interest in the digital currency Bitcoin. There is even talk of Bitcoin's first ATM opening in Cyprus.
Credit: Milos Bicanski

An international gang of cyber thieves stole more than $45 million from thousands of ATMs in carefully coordinated attacks conducted within a matter of hours, US authorities said Thursday.

Seven people were under arrest in the US in connection with the case, involving thousands of thefts from ATMs using bogus magnetic swipe cards.

The accused ringleader in the US cell, Alberto Yusi Lajud-Pena, was reportedly murdered in the Dominican Republic late last month, Wired reported, adding that he was shot and killed while playing dominoes.

The set up for the heists took place over a seven-month period ending last month, during which hackers broke into the computer networks of financial companies in the United States and India, the Washington Post reported.

Prosecutors said the thieves eliminated the withdrawal limits on prepaid debit cards and then fanned out around the globe to drain ATMs within a span of 10 hours.

The Associated Press cited Brooklyn lawyer Loretta Lynch as calling the operation "a massive 21st-century bank heist" and comparing it to the Lufthansa heist in the late 1970s, immortalized in the movie 'Goodfellas.'

According to the AP, an indictment accused the eight alleged members of the New York cell of withdrawing $2.8 million in cash from hacked accounts in less than a day.

One of the New York suspects was caught on multiple surveillance cameras while others took "selfies" featuring giant wads of cash as they raided machines around Manhattan.

The cells would take their cut before laundering it through expensive purchases or shipping it wholesale to the global ringleaders.

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