Cyber criminals targeting the financial industry have been all over the news lately, spurred by the incredible ATM caper that netted the perpetrators $45 million last month. Though that heist targeted two Middle Eastern banks, U.S. banks like Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), Citigroup (NYSE:C), JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM), and Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) have also been victimized over the past few years, suffering loss of funds and distributed denial-of-service attacks.
Happily, it looks like the good guys are finally chalking up some wins against these thieves. Reuters reports that Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, working in unison, were able to neutralize 1,000 computer networks used to pilfer over $500 million from banks all over the world -- severely crippling the embezzlers' network.
A cooperative effort
Known as the Citadel Botnets, the system consisted of as many as 1,400 computer networks used to infect computers around the world with software that transformed those devices into accomplices that aided the criminals in their nefarious activities. Microsoft estimated that approximately 5 million computers worldwide had been corrupted.
Though no persons have yet been charged in the scheme, this victory clearly shows how effective a partnership between law enforcement and private industry can be when battling Internet-based criminal behavior. Though both the FBI and Microsoft had each been battling these botnets separately for some time, they only began pooling their resources less than two weeks ago.
For banks, an expensive fight
In addition to criminal entities like the Citadel Botnets, banks have been under siege for nearly two years by international hackers bombarding their websites with hits that disrupt normal customer traffic, resulting in denial-of-service interruptions. These attacks cause more than just inconvenience, placing undue stress on the nation's telecommunication infrastructure -- and costing domestic banks millions of dollars as they grapple with these issues. Globally, banks are spending $25 billion each year on security, with much of that aimed at fighting cyber security breaches.
The success of the Microsoft-FBI joint investigation highlights the need to involve those affected in the fight against cybercrime. This past spring, the FBI brought big bank executives on board, giving them special security clearances and briefing them on the status of current investigations. Hopefully, this new spirit of cooperation will help law enforcement reduce this criminal activity -- and save banks millions of dollars that could doubtless be put to better use.
Fool contributor Amanda Alix has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Wells Fargo. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Microsoft, and Wells Fargo. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.