Friday 30 September 2016

Attacks 'here to stay' as SWIFT reveals new cyber hacking incidents

Jim Finkle

Published 01/09/2016 | 02:30

SWIFT warns banks to boost their security protocols
SWIFT warns banks to boost their security protocols

SWIFT, the global financial messaging system, has disclosed new hacking attacks on its member banks as it pressured them to comply with security procedures instituted after February's $81m heist at Bangladesh Bank.

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In a private letter to clients, SWIFT said that new cyber-theft attempts - some of them successful - have surfaced since June, when it last updated customers on a string of attacks discovered after the attack on the Bangladesh central bank.

"Customers' environments have been compromised, and subsequent attempts (were) made to send fraudulent payment instructions," according to a copy of the letter reviewed by Reuters. "The threat is persistent, adaptive and sophisticated - and it is here to stay."

The disclosure suggests that cyber thieves may have ramped up their efforts following the Bangladesh Bank heist, and that they specifically targeted banks with lax security procedures for SWIFT-enabled transfers.

The Brussels-based firm, a member-owned cooperative, indicated in the letter that some victims in the new attacks lost money, but did not say how much was taken or how many of the hacking bigs succeeded. It did not identify victims, but said the banks varied in size and geography and used different methods for accessing SWIFT.

A SWIFT spokeswoman declined to elaborate on the recently uncovered incidents or the security issues detailed in the letter, saying the firm does not discuss affairs of specific customers.

All the victims shared one thing in common: Weaknesses in local security that attackers exploited to compromise local networks and send fraudulent messages requesting money transfers, according to the letter.

SWIFT has repeatedly pushed banks to implement new security measures rolled out after the Bangladesh heist, including stronger systems for authenticating users and updates to its software for sending and receiving messages. But it has been difficult for it to force banks to comply because the non-profit cooperative lacks regulatory authority over its members.

SWIFT warned banks that it might report them to regulators and banking partners if they failed to meet a November 19 deadline for installing the latest version of its software, which includes new security features designed to thwart the type of attacks described in its letter.

The security features include technology for verifying credentials of people accessing a bank's SWIFT system; stronger rules for password management; and better tools for identifying attempts to hack the software. (Reuters)

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