Taiwan arrests three foreigners in $2.5m ATM cyberheist

A notice posted at a branch of First Commercial Bank in Taipei notifies customers of the suspension of ATM machines

Taiwan has arrested three foreign suspects over a $2.5 million cyberheist which used malware to hack into a major local bank's ATM network and steal bags of cash, police said Monday.

The attack, the first of its kind in Taiwan, targeted the First Commercial Bank's ATM network last week, using malware to withdraw more than Tw$81 million ($2.5 million) from dozens of machines in three cities.

A Latvian suspect, identified as Andrejs Peregudovs, was arrested by police in the northeastern county of Yilan after being spotted by an off duty police officer from Taipei who was on holiday in the area.

Two other suspects from Romania and Moldova were arrested Sunday at a hotel in Taipei, police said, adding they believed the heist was carried out by a 16-member international crime ring.

"This is the first ATM theft by a foreign crime ring in our country," the police said in a statement.

Police have recovered more than half of the stolen money, but warned that 13 of the suspects -- including five Russians -- had already fled Taiwan after the heist.

"We will continue to search for the rest of the stolen money to let international hackers know that Taiwan is not a crime haven," the statement said.

Police have sought assistance from both Interpol and Russia's de facto embassy in Taiwan.

Surveillance images released by the bank showed masked robbers working in two-man teams targeting 41 ATMs belonging to the First Commercial Bank in three cities.

It is not clear how the thieves installed malware on the ATMs, but within five to 10 minutes, the thieves are seen walking away with bags full of stolen cash, the bank said.

After the theft was discovered, more than 1,000 ATMs of the same type targeted in the heist have been shut down by banks nationwide.