Nightly News   |  May 09, 2013

$45 million stolen in cyber bank heist

Seven cyber criminals have been charged in a highly sophisticated coordinated attack on ATMs worldwide. NBC’s Tom Costello reports.

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>>> a big bank robbery in the news this evening. brazen, sophisticated, but very different. this time, a ring of thieves made off with tens of millions of dollars in a matter of hours without ever setting foot inside a bank. our report tonight from nbc's tom costello.

>> reporter: investigators say it was a highly sophisticated global bank heist that used computers and internet in place of guns and masks. in the end the u.s. attorney says a global criminal conspiracy got away with $45 million in a coordinated attack on atms worldwide.

>> moving literally at the speed of the internet, the organization made its way from the computer systems of international corporations to the streets of new york as well as major cities around the world.

>> reporter: how did they do it? investigators believe the suspects hacked into global financial institutions , then stole prepaid debit card numbers and eliminated the maximum withdrawal limits. that stolen data was transmitted around the world where an army of suspects and more than two dozen countries encoded the data to magnetic strips and began withdrawing money from atms .

>> they become a virtual criminal flash mob . going from machine to machine, drawing as much money as they can before these accounts are shut down.

>> reporter: on december 21 they hit 4500 atms , stealing $5 million. on february 19 they struck again. 36,000 transactions, $40 million stolen. in new york city alone, a team of eight made 2900 withdrawals, stealing $2.4 million. investigators say this suspect withdrew $30,000 all over new york city in just six hours.

>> our financial systems are so interconnected you can commit a crime halfway around the world and get away with the money before anyone can dial 911.

>> reporter: the man believed to be the ring leader was murdered. seven u.s. suspects have been arrested. many more are thought to be on the loose worldwide. tom costello, nbc news, washington.