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updated 5/3/2012 3:19:43 PM ET 2012-05-03T19:19:43

An unidentified group of hackers has reportedly infiltrated the servers belonging to a Belgian bank, and is threatening to publish confidential customer information unless it receives a $197,000 ransom payment by tomorrow (May 4).

In a Pastebin post dated May 1, the group said it downloaded "extensive confidential customer information" from the servers of Elantis, a mortgage and consumer credit subsidiary of the Belgian-French bank Dexia, PCWorld reported.

The stolen files, the hackers explained, include employees' internal login credentials along with loan applications with applicants' names, jobs, ID card numbers, email addresses and income details. The hackers noted that all the data it accessed was unprotected and unencrypted on Elantis' servers.

In a plot twist usually seen only in spy thrillers, the hackers have promised to release the files to the public unless Dexia pays them EUR 150,000 (about $197,000) by tomorrow (May 4).

"While this could be called 'blackmail,' we prefer to think of it as an 'idiot tax' for leaving confidential data unprotected on a Web server," the group wrote in its Pastebin extortion message.

The hackers added, "The only question that remains now is this  — after they carelessly treated their clients' data, will Dexia act to prevent their clients' data from being published online, or is their clients' confidentiality worth less to them than EUR 150,000? Time is running out."

Elantis' site, www.elantis.be, is currently down; the financial institution said it took the site down after the breach. Moniek Delvou, a spokeswoman for Belfius Bank (formerly Dexia), told the Reuters News Service  that the bank would not give in to the hackers' ransom demands. She said the information the hackers accessed could not be used to commit fraud.

© 2012 SecurityNewsDaily. All rights reserved

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