Online bank crimes lead to fewer branch robberies

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The Wall Street Journal notes a silver lining in the surge of online attacks against banks: The rewards are strong enough that more criminals are being drawn to hack attacks, resulting in fewer violent robberies of bank branches.

"Bank holdups have been nearly cut in half over the past decade—to 5.1 robberies per 100 U.S. banks in 2011. Though the nationwide crime rate is dropping, the decline in bank robberies far exceeds the decline in other crimes, according to Federal Bureau of Investigation data. Preliminary 2012 figures released last week show the lowest tally in decades: 3,870 bank robberies, down from more than 5,000 a year earlier," notes the WSJ.

The lure of online crime hasn't been the only factor behind the trend. Banks have really stepped up their game from a security perspective, so have law enforcement authorities. But there are some criminals no doubt who have seen the light and transitioned their theft attempts into cyberspace.

It's hard to conclude that the recent surge in online fraud attempts against banks are coming strictly from would be bank robbers. The biggest source of anti-bank online activity in 2012 might well have been overseas governments.

The conventional wisdom as of right now holds that Advanced Persistent Threats promulgated by overseas entities associated with foreign governments were behind the most recent DDoS attacks on top banks. At some point, these attacks may attempt to access accounts, though intelligence is the more likely target. You have to wonder if the old-style bandits who have jumped into cyberspace see a new opportunity now, calculating that banks and their customers will be more distracted with the APTs.

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