updated 1/18/2012 3:09:02 PM ET 2012-01-18T20:09:02

While the rest of the world was making resolutions and sleeping off a night of partying, a South African cybercrime gang rang in the New Year by stealing more than $5 million from a government bank.

In a 72-hour span ending shortly after 6:00 a.m. Jan. 3, the crooks made off with 42 million rand (about $5.2 million) from the state-owned Postbank, part of the South African Post Office that holds about 4 billion rand in deposits, the South African newspaper Times Live reported.

South Africa's National Intelligence Agency and the police have launched an investigation but no suspects have been named. The bank said none of its more than 4 million customers were affected.

The high-tech heist began in the end of December, when members of the criminal gang began opening accounts across the country with Postbank. Over the New Year holiday break, the syndicate infiltrated a Rustenberg Post Office employee's computer. From there, the crooks were able to access Postbank's server and make fraudulent deposits to the numerous accounts they'd just set up.

[What to Do If Your Online Account's Been Hacked]

With privileged access to the bank's network, the cybercrooks increased the withdrawal limits for their new accounts and then, for 72 hours starting at 9:00 a.m. on Jan. 1, made massive withdrawals from ATMs across the country. By the time the holiday break was over, so was the robbery.

A banking security expert told Times Live that Postbank's network and security systems are "in desperate need of an overhaul."

Though massive coordinated heists like this are difficult to prevent, there are some preventative measures you can take to protect your online bank account. Make sure you have a strong anti-virus and anti-malware program on your system, which can help block the Trojans cybercriminals deploy to steal your banking credentials. Check your online account regularly to make sure there are no suspicious withdrawals, and if there are, contact your bank immediately. For a full list of safety measures, click here.

© 2012 SecurityNewsDaily. All rights reserved


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