MORE than 1,800 people and businesses in Hampshire have been attacked by ‘banking trojans’ in the past six months.

Now Hampshire Constabulary is urging residents and business owners to safeguard their online banking systems in the wake of these attacks.

Lucy Dibdin, cyber security and protection officer for Hampshire Constabulary is urging everyone to take action.

She said: “Whilst it is not possible for us to identify each of the users of the IP addresses affected, we urge anyone who does their banking online to take some simple steps to help safeguard their security.

“Banking Trojans are malicious software (malware) specifically designed to break into an online bank account and transfer money to other accounts controlled by criminals.

“After a banking Trojan infects a web browser – through an infected link or attachment or other means - it will lie dormant, waiting for the computer’s user to visit his or her online banking website.

“Once that happens, the Trojan silently steals the bank-account username and password and sends it to a computer controlled by cybercriminals, sometimes halfway around the world.

“The criminals then log into the account and transfer available funds to other accounts at the same bank. But those accounts are registered to money mules and within days, or even hours, the money mules withdraw cash from the accounts and wire it overseas via a transfer service.”

However, there is also a risk from the more sophisticated programs.

Some of these do not even need money mules. They can make international transfers directly from a UK bank to one overseas.

These Trojans can also display fake warning pages that ask a user to re-enter their login and personal information, conceal the theft of large amounts of money from an account, send real-time transaction information to a cybercriminal instead of to the intended recipient or give users a fake logout page that actually keeps them signed into their accounts.

Lucy added: “Many banking Trojans go a step further. They perform what’s called a man-in-the-middle attack, getting in between the user and the bank and subtly changing what the user’s browser displays so that it appears as if a user’s transactions are proceeding normally, even while the password and money theft is taking place.”

Figures released by the police to our sister paper the Daily Echo have shown that the most affected areas in Hampshire are in areas of Southampton and Portsmouth.

If you think you may be a victim of cyber crime, call police on 101.