Santander Cyber Attack Thwarted by U.K. Police as 12 Arrested

London police arrested 12 men over an attempt to hack into Banco Santander SA computers, preventing a theft potentially worth millions of pounds.

The arrests relate to a device that was found on a computer in an East London Santander branch that would have allowed a remote user to access and take control of its systems, the Metropolitan Police Service said in a statement today.

“This was a sophisticated plot that could have led to the loss of a very large amount of money from the bank, and is the most significant case of this kind that we have come across,” Detective Inspector Mark Raymond said.

Banks face cyber-security threats from increasingly sophisticated hackers trying to steal customer identities or access funds. Andy Haldane, executive director for financial stability at the Bank of England, told lawmakers in June that regulators should “take a close look at the state of preparedness” of major banks to protect against cyber-attacks.

The attempt failed and no money was put at risk, Andy Smith, a spokesman for Santander U.K., said in an e-mail. The device was installed by a bogus engineer and no bank staff were involved, he said.

The suspects are between the ages of 23 and 50, according to the police. Officers raided homes in the London neighborhoods of Westminster, Hounslow, Hillingdon, Brent and Richmond and seized property in Slough, a city west of the British capital.

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