Ryanair falls prey to cybercrime

April 29, 2015 11:11 AM

Europe’s largest airliner in terms of passengers, Ryanair, has had $5 million siphoned from one of its bank accounts. It is alleged that Ryanair were hacked by cyber criminals and had the cash illegally transferred to a bank account in China.

Cyber thieves managed to initiate a single fraudulent transaction using a Chinese bank when stealing the money from the airline, according to reports. The hacked account held dollars which the Irish company uses for fuel purchases.

In a statement Ryanair said the following:

“The airline has been working with its banks and the relevant authorities and understands that the funds – less than $5 million – have now been frozen.”

“The airline expects these funds to be repaid shortly, and has taken steps to ensure that this type of transfer cannot recur.”

Although the sum stolen was relatively small in corporate terms and appears to have been tracked and frozen quite quickly, the incident – yet again – highlights the threat posed by cybercrime to today’s banking and financial systems.

Legislation to deter cyber theft is only as effective as the means to enforce it. It is a relatively new phenomenon that a theft could be committed without the thief having to set foot in the jurisdiction from where the asset is stolen.

If the perpetrators are above the law or reside in a different jurisdiction legislation is not an effective deterrent.

In February, we covered how Moscow based cyber security firm Kaspersky Lab had uncovered the operations of an international group of cyber criminals who stole up to $1 billion from “over 100 banking and financial institutions in 30 different countries across the world”.

To date, there appears to have been no progress in identifying the hackers demonstrating the comfort and impunity with which very savvy cyber-thieves can operate.

Guy Haselmann from Scotiabank has described cyber attacks as the “New Cold War.” In his piece “The Invisible Enemy” he refers to President Obama’s recent State of the Union address where he described “foreign cyber-threats as a ‘national emergency’.”

Obama said that the “if the US government does not improve cyber defenses, we leave our nation and our economy vulnerable”.

Haselmann goes on to suggest that warfare ideology has moved from the insane doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) through nuclear weaponry to “Multilateral Unconstrained Disruption” – MUD.

“This unrestricted warfare”, he says, “is meant to disrupt societal functioning; to ‘poison’ information to elevate distrust of all computer information.”

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About the Author

Mark O'Byrne is executive director of Ireland-based GoldCore.