Cyberthieves are getting rich by cracking Internet banking accounts, the National Police Agency warned Thursday.
By taking advantage of security flaws in online banking, the thieves have stolen a record amount through money transfers, with cases at an all-time high.
As of last Friday, police had uncovered 615 illegal money transfers this year involving ¥550.57 million in stolen funds, up 11 times from the ¥48.6 million stolen in 2012, the NPA said.
The new numbers have already shattered the records of 165 cases and ¥308 million set in 2011, the agency said.
Apparently, there is nowhere to hide. The thefts involved accounts at 18 banks, including Japan Post Bank, Mizuho Bank and Rakuten Bank, up from just six banks at the end of July. They also involved regional banks.
The thefts surged from 109 cases in June to 195 in July before easing to 128 in August. The figure this month is 73 so far, the NPA said.
A total of 1,086 accounts were used to receive the stolen money, with 752, or 69 percent, set up in the names of Chinese nationals, followed by 207 belonging to Japanese and 12 to Russians. The account holders were dispersed across 22 countries, including Malta and Tanzania.
As of Friday, police had arrested 43 people involved in 23 of the illegal transfers, including 38 Chinese.
The agency is advising people who use online banking accounts to update their antivirus software and to use one-time passwords that are obtained through separate devices, such as mobile phones.
It also is asking banks to take measures that include providing customers with free devices to display the one-time passwords.