IMF system hit by cyber attack
Probe under way as fund confirms 'sophisticated' raid on its computers
The International Monetary Fund has been hit by a cyber attack on its computer systems, an IMF spokesman confirmed last night.
The raid is the latest in a series of targeted assaults on on high-profile institutions.
Officials said the organisation, which is searching for a new head since Dominique Strauss-Kahn resigned after being arrested in New York last month on suspicion of sexual assault, had been hit before but the latest attack was more significant and sophisticated.
A spokesman said the incident was being investigated and the fund was "fully functional". It is believed the attack involved a method known as "spear phishing", in which an individual is tricked into clicking on a bogus web link.
The IMF collects sensitive information about the financial systems of its 187 member nations.
If leaked, some data in IMF computer systems could be used to manipulate or profit from bonds and currencies around the world.
Mohan Koo, a cyber security specialist who is managing director of Dtex Systems (UK), said that a recent spate of attacks on large global organisations showed that hacking was carefully planned rather than opportunistic.
IMF spokesman David Hawley said: "I can confirm that we are investigating an incident. I am not in a position to elaborate further on the extent of the cybersecurity incident."
The IMF's computer system was attacked by hackers "believed to be connected to a foreign government, resulting in the loss of e-mails and other documents," according to sources.
The attack occurred before the May 14 arrest of Mr Strauss-Kahn.
Cybersecurity experts say it is very difficult to trace a sophisticated cyber break-in to its ultimate source.
Internal IMF memos have warned employees to be on their guard.
"Last week we detected some suspicious file transfers, and the subsequent investigation established that a fund desktop computer had been compromised and used to access some fund systems," said a June 8 e-mail to employees from chief information officer Jonathan Palmer.