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According to a new report, up to 100 banks and financial institutions worldwide have been attacked in an “unprecedented cyber robbery”.

Computer security company Kaspersky Lab estimates $1 billion has been stolen in the attacks, which it says started in 2013 and are still active.

A cybercriminal gang with members from Russia, Ukraine and China is responsible, it said.

Kaspersky said it worked with Interpol and Europol on the investigation.

It said the attacks had taken place in 30 countries including financial institutions in Russia, US, Germany, China, Ukraine and Canada.

“These attacks again underline the fact that criminals will exploit any vulnerability in any system,” said Sanjay Virmani, director of Interpol’s digital crime centre.

Kaspersky said the gang’s methods marked a new stage in cyber robbery where “malicious users steal money directly from banks and avoid targeting end users”.Kaspersky Lab report bank hackers 2015

The gang, which Kaspersky dubbed Carbanak, used computer viruses to infect company networks with malware including video surveillance, enabling it to see and record everything that happened on staff’s screens.

In some cases it was then able to transfer money from the banks’ accounts to their own, or even able to tell cash machines to dispense cash at a pre-determined time of day.

Kaspersky said on average each bank robbery took between two and four months, with up to $10 million stolen each time.

“It was a very slick and professional cyber robbery,” said Kaspersky Lab’s principal security researcher, Sergey Golovanov.

The Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center, a body that alerts banks about hacking activity, said that its members had received a briefing about Kaspersky’s report in January.

“We cannot comment on individual actions our members have taken, but on balance we believe our members are taking appropriate actions to prevent and detect these kinds of attacks and minimize any effects on their customers,” it said in a statement.

Three women were taken hostage in a California bank robbery.

Two of the hostages were thrown from a fleeing SUV, as the bank robbers fired repeatedly at police during a high-speed chase. Police shot out their tires but the shooting continued, fatally wounding two suspects and the last hostage.

The violence began at 2 p.m. when officers responded to a call of a robbery at a Bank of the West branch in north Stockton. Arriving officers spotted three men taking three female hostages from the bank at gunpoint. The robbers stole a bank employee’s SUV and led officers on the pursuit, Stockton police Officer Joe Silva said.

During the chase that lasted 45 minutes and spanned several miles, one of the hostages was thrown from the SUV and was taken to a hospital with a gunshot wound, Joe Silva said. The pursuit continued as the suspects fired with AK-47 style rifles from the SUV.

Fourteen police cars and an unknown number of homes along the robbers’ path were peppered with gunshots, Police Chief Eric Jones told a news conference late Wednesday.

Fourteen police cars and an unknown number of homes along the robbers' path were peppered with gunshots during Stockton shootout

Fourteen police cars and an unknown number of homes along the robbers’ path were peppered with gunshots during Stockton shootout (photo News10)

“It was such a chaotic … fluid situation, really one of the most dangerous, tense situations that a police officer could go through,” Eric Jones said.

“There was a lot on the line and the officers responded appropriately,” he said.

A second hostage was later thrown from the vehicle, and officers tending to her found she had suffered a grazing bullet wound, Joe Silva said.

When the SUV became disabled at a street intersection, officers exchanged a barrage of gunfire with someone inside the vehicle.

When it was all over, the third hostage was found dead in the SUV and one of the robbers was also dead. The police chief said the hostage was a bank customer, and that she appears to have been used by the suspects as a shield during the shootout.

Police said the other two suspects were taken to the hospital with gunshot wounds, and one of them later died.

The surviving suspect was conscious, Eric Jones said.

Witnesses said the shootout that brought the episode to a close looked like a war.

Eric Jones said the robbers also tied up a bank security guard.

The bank said in a statement that it would not provide information about the victims.

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