The Antwerp-based savings bank Argenta has turned off a number of its cash machines after thieves attempted to carry out a digital raid.
The banking sector has become used to physical attacks on cash machines, using mechanical diggers and even explosives, and as a result many machines have disappeared from the streetscape.
This is the first time, however, that such a raid has taken place online. The attacks took place in Borsbeek and Ranst, both in Antwerp province. For security reasons, the bank will not say how successful the attempts were or how much money, if any, was stolen.
The Antwerp prosecutor’s office, likewise, could give no information, other than to confirm that attempts had been made and that an investigation was under way.
The attempts targetted one specific type of cash machine used by Argenta, and the bank has now closed down all examples of that model. The bank said it was carrying out its own security investigation and hoped soon to be able to restart the machines in question.
According to security experts, this type of robbery is new in Belgium. But it has already been seen elsewhere, including Germany. Around three years ago several banks in Germany were the victim of the technique known as ‘jackpotting’.
That consists of installing malware – software intended to cause damage – onto machines by removing a protective panel and making a USB connection with the computer. They then take control of the machine to make it issue a non-stop stream of banknotes.
In more serious cases the thieves manage to gain access to the central IT system which governs the cash machines, in which case the damage is more widespread.
Argenta, whose machines tend to be in small towns and villages, was last year the victim of a series of physical raids on cash machines, which led the bank to close down the whole system. The machines later came back online, but some, especially those accessible outdoors, were removed permanently.