Cyber-attack on Tesco: What happened?

08 November 2016

Security worries after customer cash is taken


Reports that Tesco customers’ have had money stolen from their bank accounts has prompted fresh concerns about online banking.

So far the supermarket giant has not elaborated on exactly what happened, or revealed how much cash was taken, but did confirm it is working with the National Crime Agency to investigate and find the culprits.

Tesco Bank's chief executive Benny Higgins has blamed "a systematic, sophisticated attack" and said the bank knew "exactly" what the attack was, but could not say more because it was part of a criminal investigation.

The BBC has reported that parts of Tesco’s online banking system have now been suspended after it detected attempts to steal cash from customers' accounts. It is believed to have spotted "suspicious transactions" on 40,000 accounts over the weekend, with money reportedly taken from about half of them.

Current account customers are temporarily blocked from making online payments using their debit card. Customers are still able to use their cards for cash withdrawals and chip and pin payments, while bill payments and direct debits will continue as normal.

Like many banks, Tesco has automatic fraud-spotting systems that keep an eye on accounts and build up a picture of normal activity.

Such systems are usually alerted when a customer suddenly uses their credit or debit card to buy lots of things from lots of different places in just a few minutes.

It is these monitoring systems that are believed to have alerted Tesco to the problems that led to it suspending the site and halting transactions.

Customers can follow a few simple steps to help protect their online account:

  • Choose a strong password and do not reuse it elsewhere
  • Use the bank’s two-factor authentication and keep an eye on transactions carried out via your account
  • Keep security software on your PC, phone or tablet up-to-date
  • Beware of phishing emails – cyber gangs are believed to already be pretending to be Tesco security staff to get worried customers to hand over their details.






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