What NOT To Do When Electronically Robbing a Bank

A gang of European blokes just landed in gaol after trying to steal over $300 million in what would've been the greatest techno-heist in history. What stopped them? A remarkable string of amazingly stupid decisions.

The following is a retelling of an excellent—but far less judgmental—BBC News story:

Step 1: Two Belgian hackers show up at the Sumitomo Mitsui bank reception desk in London on Sept. 16, 2006, and asked for the bank's security chief, a Mr. O'Donoghue. ERROR: They were caught on closed-circuit camera, not just talking to but joking around with O'Donoghue, who even showed the two to a freakin' secure terminal.

Step 2: The so-called hackers used a USB key to log keystrokes on that terminal, and returned to retrieve the keystrokes—usernames and passwords of employees—themselves. ERROR: They had to return in person. O'Donoghue decided to cover the Belgians' tracks by cutting wires to CCTV cams, and even "enquired about creating extra access badges."

Step 3: On Friday, Oct. 1, they showed up and used the logins to attempt 10 cash transfers to accounts in Spain, Dubai, Hong Kong, Turkey and Israel. ERROR: They never actually learned how to fill out transfer forms, so the transfers didn't go through. (Also, they chose countries that sounded like Bond film locations, and they chose a target—Nomura Holdings—that sounded like the company Hans Gruber tried to rob in Die Hard.)

Step 4: Having failed, they went back again on Saturday. ERROR: They went back again on Saturday.

Step 5: On Monday, when the bank managers noticed around $320 million in failed bank transfers, they alerted authorities, who quickly zeroed in on, you guessed it, Security Chief O'Donoghue. ERROR: O'Donoghue should never have come back to work. Also, $320 million? Didn't they know about rounding up pennies?

Although the case against O'Donoghue and the Belgians seems open and shut, there's a lot more to this tale, including a dapper "self-styled lord of the manor" named Hugh Rodley, a money-laundering porn-shop owner named David Nash and a mysterious Swedish dame by the name of Inger Britt Marie Malmros. I am not making any of this up.

Please go to the BBC and read more—there's even a video. [BBC News]