IMAGINE a burglar hiding in your house and slowly cleaning out your valuables, bit by bit, without you even realising it.
According to security firm Symantec, that is the common modus operandi of banking Trojans today, which have grown so sophisticated that they are almost impossible to detect and very difficult to get rid of.
As its latest white paper the World of Financial Trojans reveals recently, malware (short for malicious software) attacked over 600 financial institutions worldwide last year.
With this growth, bank hold-ups or ATM robberies, the bank heist of choice in Malaysia these days will soon be a thing of the past.
The phenomenon is no doubt partly due to the growing trend of online banking. As banks move online to make their transactions fast, easy and convenient for customers, cyber criminals are also finding the digital route the faster, easier and more convenient mode for looting.
A big threat, the report highlights, is the rate at which banking Trojans are now developed: with state-of-the-art mechanisms to circumvent the more complex security systems and exploit their weaknesses.
"Trojans have indeed evolved and the attackers have become more specialised and sophisticated," Symantec Corporation (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd director (systems engineering) Nigel Tan concurs.
Most worrying, is that while the United States and Japan remain top of their target list, the banking Trojans are increasingly targeting emerging economies with high Gross Domestic Products (GDP) in Asia and the Middle East like Malaysia.
Tan notes, "Malaysia is on the radar of these cyber criminals and our financial institutions experienced attacks out of the 600 reported globally last year. We are not in the top 10 of countries attacked but the threat for Malaysia is no less dangerous."