Malaysia police track down ATM hackers from central Asian country

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - They came with better technology than a Latin American gang that hacked 17 automated teller machines (ATM) and got away with RM3 million (S$987,630) last year.

But this time, police managed to track down the criminals, who are only in their 20s and are from a Central Asian country.

One was caught red-handed as he was about to hack into an ATM in Bangsar at about 1pm on Friday. The other was arrested later during a raid at an apartment in Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC).

Police officers seized a card that was used in the hack and two laptops.

They also found receipts from Western Union, indicating that the suspects may have already transferred their RM1.6 million loot into overseas bank accounts.

Police are now looking for three other gang members.

The group first struck at a bank in Subang Jaya on Sept 4 and over the next few days, went on to hack ATMs at five more of the bank's branches in Puchong, Ampang, Putrajaya, Bukit Bintang and Bangsar.

After the bank in Subang Jaya lodged a report, police tracked their movements as they went from bank to bank over the week, resulting in the first arrest.

The technology and method used was newer, but the effect was still the same - to hack the ATM and trick it into coughing up cash.

Bukit Aman Commercial Crimes Investigation Department's deputy director (Cyber and Multimedia Crimes) Mohd Kamarudin Md Din said one member would enter the bank, hack into an ATM and withdraw large sums of cash, while an accomplice waited outside.

"They would do this under the very noses of the security guards and it appeared like normal withdrawals. They didn't have to open the top and use a CD like the other gang did last year.

"Based on closed-circuit television (CCTV) recordings, all they did was to insert a credit card into the slot and tap on the screen a few times. The money just came out," he said.

Investigators said they were shocked to find out how young the hackers were.

"They must be in their early 20s," said one source, adding that the card and laptops had been sent for forensic analysis.

The officer, who had worked on last year's case, said the team did not want a similar thing to happen again.

"We are hunting down the other three members. We are not going to let them get away," he said, adding that the two suspects were remanded until Sept 15.

In September last year, a Latin American gang struck banks in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Johor and Malacca and stole over RM3 million before fleeing.