E-mail scam steals €3 million in carbon credits

The phishing scheme resulted in losses of up to €3 million from companies

A clever phishing scheme launched last week may have stolen more than €3 million (US$4.1 million) worth of carbon emission permits from companies.

At least seven companies with carbon emission permits registered with the German Emissions Trading Authority saw some 250,000 certificates moved out of their accounts, according to a spokesman with Germany's Federal Environment Agency.

The certificates allow companies to emit pollution within certain limits and are meant as incentives for companies to invest in cleaner technologies. As of Thursday, certificates traded for around €2.50 each, putting the losses at around €3.2 million.

The attack is believed to be the first ever targeting the emissions-trading program, administered in part by the United Nations.

"We have the impression that they acted very professionally as regards to IT procedures, and of course they had to know how emissions trading works," said Julie Steinen, spokeswoman for German Emissions Trading Authority, the country's registry for carbon emissioin certificates.

Last week, companies whose certificates are tracked by German Emissions Trading Authority receiving e-mails saying they needed to register again due to security problems. The e-mail contained a link to a fraudulent Web site, Steinen said. Other national registries were also targeted.

Once the fraudsters obtained the companies' account details, they quickly moved the certificates to accounts tracked by other national registries and presumably sold them, Steinen said.

Different national registries track the movement of certificates, but the financial transactions are separate from the registry system, she said. Certificates can be sold on the open market.

Once electronic certificates are moved to another registry, it's more difficult to track them, although the certificates do carry a unique code. Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office and prosecutors in Berlin are investigating, Steinen said.

The German Emissions Trading Authority halted certificate trading last Friday to ensure no other companies were victimized, and other national registries also temporarily closed. Germany's registry, which advised its 2,000 companies to change their passwords, is going to resume allowing transactions today, she said.

The agency has also published a screenshot of what the security certificate for its Web site should look like. Web sites can create a security certificate that is then verified by a third party to show the site isn't a fake one. Web browsers should alert users when a certificate is invalid.

Germany's registry has several security measures in place that companies have the option of implementing that would make it more difficult for the phishers.

One of those is a so-called "four-eyes" system, where if one person initiates a certificate transaction, a second person gets a notification of that request and must log in to approve it. Companies can also opt to receive an e-mail every time their account is logged into, a feature that could prompt a fast alert of an unexpected account access.

Those features may have helped prevent greater losses, Steinen said. Many companies called the agency after seeing the fraudulent e-mail, and asked if it was really from the agency. "The e-mails were not that professional -- other users easily smelled the rat," she said.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags securitycarbon creditsscamsphishingfraud

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?