(Bloomberg) -- Russian police have arrested 50 members of an alleged cyber-crime ring that stole more than 3 billion rubles ($45 million) from banks, the country’s biggest ever crackdown on financial hackers.

The gang used malware to create networks of infected computers to launch 18 targeted attacks against Russian banks and state entities over the past year, the Interior Ministry said in a statement on its website. Police were able to prevent another 2.3 billion rubles of losses, it said. The individual banks weren’t identified.

"As far as I know, this is the largest ever arrest of hackers in Russia," said Ruslan Stoyanov, head of computer incidents investigation at Kaspersky Lab, which helped to identify the hackers and collect evidence. "Russia is tightening its grip on financial hacking.”

Banks around the world are falling victim to ever more audacious cyber heists. Thieves exploited weaknesses in how banks connect to Swift, the global payments network, to steal $81 million from Bangladesh’s central bank in February and $12 million from an Ecuadorean bank in January 2015.

Investigators are examining possible computer breaches at as many as 12 other banks linked to Swift’s system. Russian-speaking hackers are known for sophisticated attacks on financial institutions.

One group stole as much as $1 billion from 100 banks, e-payment systems and other financial institutions in 30 countries including the U.S, China and European nations between 2013 and 2015, computer security firm Kaspersky Lab said in February last year. Members of the gang, know as Carbanak, came from Russia, China, Ukraine and other parts of Europe, it said.

Security researchers investigating computer breaches at the U.S. White House, the House of Representatives, a French TV network, the Polish stock market, a German steel plant that suffered severe damage and The New York Times have found links to Russian-speaking hackers, people with knowledge of the matter said last year.

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