back to article Fraudster convicted of online banking thefts using… whatever the hell this thing is

Brit cops have put away a fraudster who was using a bizarre homemade device to con people out of the contents of their bank accounts. London's Metropolitan Police said this week that 53-year-old Tony Muldowney-Colston (who also goes by Tony Colston-Hayter) has admitted to nine counts of possession of an article for use in …

  1. petur
    Mushroom

    "This should send a clear message to anyone considering committing crimes of this nature that you can continue as soon as you leave prison"

    FTFY

    1. David 132 Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Well, he's been sentenced to a spirit-crushing 20 months, so... including time spent on remand, he'll almost certainly be out again by late next summer. I'm sure he'll be a reformed character by then who's seen the error of his ways and will devote the rest of his days to charitable works, soppy poetry, and helping little old ladies across the road.

      No-one else is convinced by the Jesus/devotional postcard in the top-left corner of his device?

      1. Thoguht Silver badge

        Devotional postcard? Personally, I think it's the IKEA mirror that gives it away.

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Devotional postcard? Personally, I think it's the IKEA mirror that gives it away.

          Well, I think it's details like that which distinguish a really great build, and after getting out he should tour Makerspaces demonstrating the thing. One of the finest examples of ... whatever the hell that is ... I've seen in some time.

          1. jrdld

            Eh?

            You mean you've seen one before?

        2. GnuTzu Bronze badge

          "Devotional postcard?"

          I'm always puzzled by the religiosity of criminals. Surely, there must be studies done on such things.

          1. Rich 11 Silver badge

            Re: "Devotional postcard?"

            Surely, there must be studies done on such things.

            Yup. Criminals in religious nations where many judges, jurors and parole boards can be assumed to be religious readily profess a religion themselves. It doesn't always gain them some leniency, claiming that the blessings of Jesus/Allah/Buddha/Vishnu have helped them to turn their lives around, but it doesn't stop them from trying it on.

          2. I3N
            Angel

            Re: "Devotional postcard?"

            Confounding, yes ...

            Think about it ...

            Who here doesn't recognize a shire with a flat screen display?

    2. david 12 Bronze badge

      This should send a clear message that you can make a lot of money by scamming people out of their banking details.

      1. YetAnotherLocksmith

        £Half a million for 20 months, great hourly rate?

        Pathetic sentence for a repeat offender.

        £500,000 that they know about, and a likely 10 months in prison gives an hourly rate far beyond minimum wages! Assume an 18 hour "prison work day" and he'll be awake for about 5000 hours over ten months. So that's ~£100 an hour...

        Crime clearly pays.

        1. jmch Silver badge

          Re: £Half a million for 20 months, great hourly rate?

          "great hourly rate?"

          You don't know if any of the 500k was safely stashed away where he can get it later, nor if he managed to stash anything else away unknown from the police, so the best you can say is he has board and lodging free for 10 months. Otherwise, who knows?

          1. Glen 1 Bronze badge
            Coat

            Re: £Half a million for 20 months, great hourly rate?

            >board and lodging free for 10 months

            It does depends on the flexibility of his current (previous) living situation. Banks/landlords take a dim view to missing mortgage/rent payments. Just got to hope there is enough in the account so the direct debits don't bounce.

            I was going to do a breakdown of how much it would save with no prior commitments, then got sad at the cost of living.

        2. sisk Silver badge

          Re: £Half a million for 20 months, great hourly rate?

          I would imagine he was required to pay back what they knew about. Or, at the very least, it was confiscated. Then again, the question here is "how much does he have stashed away somewhere that they don't know about"

    3. Insert sadsack pun here

      "Muldowney-Colston (who also goes by Tony Colston-Hayter)... is an audacious criminal who only recently was released from prison"

      Hayters gonna hayte.

      ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I thought you were going to say ;"in the UK so you can get off easy" since clearly the punishment wasn't a deterrent.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      A chap from the local federal police used to show up at a local hacker conference and explain that when you get caught, they put you in jail with a roommate that is most likely there for longer and stole far less. Once he figures out he got years for a few hundred and you got the same for hundreds of thousands he will either be very angry or want to be your friend. If you can't teach him how to hack, he and his friends will find you when you get out and insist you help them using persuasive techniques they learned in jail.

  2. Wellyboot Silver badge

    More 80s plot..

    Morse: This looks like Muldowneys handywork, but he's doing 3-5 in scrubs.

    Lewis: No sir, he's not! he was released last week, it was on the bulletin, Lives not far from here.

    Morse: Bring him in for a chat Lewis...

    1. Kane Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: More 80s plot..

      Doo-do, Doo-do, Do, Do, Do-Do-Do

      Doo-do, Doo-do, Do, Do, Do-Do-Do

      Doo-do, Doo-do, Do, Do, Do-Do-Do

      Doo-do, Doo-do, Do, Do, Do-Do-Do

      Doo-do, Doo-do, Do, Do, Do-Do-Do

      Doo-do, Doo-do, Do, Do, Do-Do-Do

      1. Glen 1 Bronze badge
        Joke

        Re: More 80s plot..

        >Doo-do, Doo-do, Do, Do, Do-Do-Do

        Baby Shark?

        I'm told they always put the name of the killer in morse at the start, which if you know morse well makes those shows pointless to watch. Don't know how true that is.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: More 80s plot..

          Di-dah-di-dit

          Dah-dah-dah

          Di-dah-di-dit

          73's OM

        2. MonkeyBob
          Thumb Down

          Re: Baby Shark?

          NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!1one!!!

          Why did you have to put that back in my head

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's a flux capacitor.

    1. Kane Silver badge
      Boffin

      If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour, you're gonna see some serious shit.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you look closely there are actually two of them and they look identical. The guys a genius.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Yes, but an evil genius.

  5. Tom Chiverton 1

    So why's he got a Barclays hardware dongle / mugger's PIN checker ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Pin sentries are not specific to any bank so I found out when I used a Barclays one with Nat-west and vice versa, certainly a security error on the banks part.

      1. Evil Auditor Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Pin sentries are not specific to any bank so I found out when I used a Barclays one with Nat-west and vice versa, certainly a security error on the banks part.

        Tony, how did gain access to internet?!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          You don't need internet for a pin sentry, just the card and I'm guessing you can do telephone banking with them as well. That machine there is old skool.

      2. DaLo

        "Pin sentries are not specific to any bank so I found out when I used a Barclays one with Nat-west and vice versa, certainly a security error on the banks part."

        Why on earth is that a security error? This is by design, it is an open standard that is used by many banks in different countries. It means that if you have 6 different bank accounts then you don't need 6 different pin devices - less plastic waste. Also if you need to make a cash transfer you can borrow one from a friend - especially useful when travelling the world. It also means they are all secured (or insecured) to the same standard rather than having weaknesses in specific ones. They also wouldn't need to all be swapped out every time a card range is changed for a certain bank (which happens many times a year).

        So, completely failing to see why it is a negative...

    2. Bill B

      PinSentry

      For the uninitiated, the device at the bottom left is similar to a Barclays PINSentry. Can be used to get access to your online bank account. Put your card in, type in your PIN and it generates an 8 digit one time code. That, together with your surname and online membership number gets you into your account.

      So in terms of security it relies on something you have (the chip on your card), something you know (your PIN) and a couple of other bits of fixed information (your name and membership). I think if you log in from a different device another layer kicks in.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      So why's he got a Barclays hardware dongle / mugger's PIN checker ?

      1. As other commentariat noted they are not bank specific.

      2. Barclays has the best quality ones. I have not seen one fail yet. HSBC - yes. Nationwide - yes, got two dead in my drawer. Barclay - no. I use a Barclay instead of the Nationwide one for my nationwide accounts.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "For the uninitiated, the device at the bottom left is similar to a Barclays PINSentry. "

        No, that IS a Barclays PINSentry.

  6. spold Bronze badge

    Authentic....

    Genuine Heath Robinson device if you ask me

    1. IceC0ld Bronze badge

      Re: Authentic....

      Genuine Heath Robinson device if you ask me

      ===

      more a 'Helps Rob Someone' device if you ask me :o)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        Re: Authentic....

        >more a 'Helps Rob Someone' device if you ask me :o)

        Comment of the week.

  7. Jay Lenovo Silver badge

    Revenge of the 80's

    Looks like something a disgruntled Radio Shack employee cooked up.

    1. YetAnotherLocksmith

      Re: Revenge of the 80's

      Maplin, please!

      1. Totally not a Cylon

        Re: Revenge of the 80's

        Nope, Definitely a Tandy (Radio Shack) mash up!

        Early Maplin was mail order only and full of cool toys for geeks.

        Not just chips but copper solution and etch to make your own pcbs.

        And most importantly the nice box to put your mad project in!

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Revenge of the 80's

      a disgruntled Radio Shack employee

      Was there another sort?

      Seriously, I built some pieces of quick-and-dirty kit from components purchased at Radio Shack back in the day. I recall a 555-based tone generator a friend and I breadboarded together and put in a plastic food container as a case. And around 1984 my father and I built a surge suppressor and power-line noise filter out of Radio Shack parts, based on a Steve Ciarcia "Circuit Cellar" article; I used that thing until a couple of years ago, when it finally started to get flaky.

      It was pretty neat when you could go in the Radio Shack in your local suburban mall and buy simple ICs like the 555, discrete components, breadboards, cases, books of project plans... One of my local stores even had a tube (valve) tester on the floor up through the late 1980s.

      1. Mike 16 Silver badge

        Re: Revenge of the 80's

        --- I recall a 555-based tone generator a friend and I breadboarded together ---

        Are you sure that wasn't a 556, for Dual Tone?

        And that your muse didn't have a surname starting with 'W'?

        OTOH, the harmonic content of simple 555-based tone generators made for their use as "tariff reduction devices" iffy.

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Revenge of the 80's

          Are you sure that wasn't a 556, for Dual Tone?

          Nah, it was a 555. We were just messing about generating single tones. I think my friend hoped to eventually build a working blue box, but probably lost interest before he got that far.

          And that your muse didn't have a surname starting with 'W'?

          If you're referring to my reference to Steve Ciarcia - no, it was definitely Steve Ciarcia, of Byte magazine's "Circuit Cellar" column. (And later his own Circuit Cellar magazine.)

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Guitar Looper Pedal

    The pink bit is a Boss RC30 Looper pedal .... could be used to record/replay snippets of speech (or guitar solos)

    1. rmason Silver badge

      Re: Guitar Looper Pedal

      @AC

      Maybe he rocked them with a bit of hold music, to make it more authentic.

    2. Msitekkie

      Re: Guitar Looper Pedal

      Rather than hold music (or maybe as well as) I wonder if it is for that old trick of hanging on the line and playing a dialing tone sound while the person at the other end puts the receiver down, picks it up again & thinks they are dialing a different number.

  9. Blofeld's Cat
    Coat

    Hmm ...

    I suspect that had Mr Muldowney-Colston entered that construction for the Turner Prize, he could have made even more money legitimately.

    He would however have needed was a bit of art-speak:

    "I call it the Seduction of Capitalism. It is a manifestation of the discord caused by the juxtaposition of tradition, in the form of the religious image, with the brutal modernism and pursuit of Mammon symbolised by the card reader. The theme continues with the voice-changing electronics acting as a metaphor for the mixing and blurring of genders and identities. The wiring represents the complex interconnections of modern life, and is contrasted with the observer's own self image reflected in the mirror."

    1. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Hmm ...

      Or just "bollocks" for the non-artists amongst us.

      Mines the one with paint stains down the front

      1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
        Gimp

        Re: Hmm ...

        "Or just "bollocks" for the non-artists amongst us."

        If your bollocks look like that, you should probably see a doctor.

    2. Sartori
      Pint

      Re: Hmm ...

      *applauds* your idea, and definitely deserving of a beer. Happy Friday, that's a great comment :)

    3. Proud Father

      Re: Hmm ...

      "Blofeld's Cat" that's fucking genius! Shame I can only upvote once.

    4. Grinning Bandicoot

      Re: Hmm ...

      Where's the footnotes to reference obscure self referencing journals that proves the brilliance of the author and fellow travelers?

  10. Peter Prof Fox

    Tech or pretend-tech?

    I'm guessing this perp used tech to boost his chutzpah rather than break tech. Oh... Yes.. Just a black-hat pen-tester who got caught and publicised.

    1. YetAnotherLocksmith

      Re: Tech or pretend-tech?

      No, it helped disguise his voice and fake voice authentication checks. Digital recording, real time pitch etc shifting and playback.

      1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

        Re: Tech or pretend-tech?

        How does the mirror and holy postcard help with that?

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Tech or pretend-tech?

          "How does the mirror and holy postcard help with that?"

          Well, it's Xmas, he was wearing a Santa hat, so I'm guessing it was a works party :)

        2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Tech or pretend-tech?

          How does the mirror and holy postcard help with that?

          What, you expect us to explain sympathetic electronics in a forum post?

          OK, at a very high level: the mirror acts as a mundane-pass filter to suppress ghost and other supernatural activity, while the postcard serves as a holiness capacitor which conditions the aura of sincerity.

        3. jrdld

          Re: Tech or pretend-tech?

          The mirror is the only bit that does anything.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Tech or pretend-tech?

          The glass/mirror is probably a sound reflector/screen, as there appear to be loudspeakers at the front of the apparatus.

    2. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

      Re: Tech or pretend-tech?

      wibbly wobbly, timey wimey...

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Re: Tech or pretend-tech?

        its to look behind him when hes using public wifi on a bench.

  11. Tim Jenkins

    Sunrise

    "... he also gained notoriety in the late 80s for organizing raves and was known as the 'King of Acid House' at one point...."

    http://www.fantazia.org.uk/Scene/players/tonycolstonhayter.htm

    for a quick nostalgia trip....

  12. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "...we have the tools and methods to identify you and bring you to justice"

    Yup, but you don't have the tools to keep him from starting all over again.

  13. rwbthatisme

    Enigma?

    Its quite clearly a modern day enigma encoding device, all banks have a similar contraption on the back end of their infrastructure for decoding transactions, except theirs has a post-it note holder to write down the onetime keys. I understand from a source (only known to me) that this key piece of hardware caused TSB's melt-down when a piece of gaffer tape became unstuck.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Enigma?

      Gaffer tape came unstuck? How long had the post-it note been up there, thirty years?

  14. Graham Cluley

    Tony Colston-Hayter and Wossy

    As well as the high-tech heists against Barclays and Santander five years ago ( https://www.grahamcluley.com/bank-hackers-hardware/ ), Colston-Hayter is also infamous for handcuffing himself to Jonathan Ross live on air.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q93jq5xNOn8

    (Beware, images of 1980s fashion)

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "...we have the tools and methods to identify you and bring you to justice"

    "Yes, Commissioner Gordon, we've issued the boys with a utility belt loaded with Batspray, Batcuffs and a Batstungun.. the Batsignal has been upgraded with a zeon bulb... and the detectives have been issued with Dick Tracey watch radios"

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I like him...

    In the Gig economy self-starters like this smart chap should be applauded.

    I doff my cap to you Sir.

  17. AbeSapian

    A Good Christian

    I like the fact that his thievery device came complete with a picture of the holy family. It shows the right attitude towards his faith.

  18. AOD

    There's an app for that

    Hi, Clippy here.

    It looks like you're trying to drain some accounts, would you like some help with that?

  19. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    Twenty months for half a million? Yup, posh white boy gone bad.

  20. davidp231

    Looks like something BofH or PFY would build.

  21. Bibbit

    "This should send a clear message to anyone considering committing crimes of this nature that we have the tools and methods to identify you and bring you to justice."

    ...for 20 months.

    1. EnviableOne Bronze badge

      so you can improve your skills and steal more/survive longer next time ....

  22. maddmartigan

    This is why we have so many people in prison in 'Murica. 20 months for a repeat offender who just continues to do the same old schemes over and over is a joke. Like it or not, this kind of thing should be punished much more severely and it typically is across the pond.

  23. Finnish Anonymous Coward

    A bit scary...

    ...that nobody at el Reg noticed that their laboratory testing equipment was stolen.

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