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SWIFT to Warn Banks on Cybersecurity

Global financial messaging body SWIFT is to issue emergency advice to the world’s banks on cybersecurity following the $81 million online heist that hit Bangladesh’s central bank earlier this month.

A spokeswoman for the group told Reuters that it would be sending a written note and calling up the banks in person, urging them to review their security posture.

"Our priority at this time is to encourage customers to review and, where necessary, to reinforce their local operating environments," she said.

The group has maintained that its network was not compromised in the attack, but instead that it was an “internal operational issue” at Bangladesh Bank.

FireEye’s Mandiant forensics unit is investigating the incident and claimed in an interim report seen by the newswire that hackers managed to access the bank’s network, steal credentials allowing them to send SWIFT messages, and use malware to target the computers which process and authorize transactions.

The same threat actors, described as “financially motivated and well organized,” are believed to be behind other attacks on banking organizations.

The hackers in question made a series of transfer requests with the New York Federal Reserve Bank over the course of a weekend at the start of February.

The Fed processed four of three dozen requests, transferring $81m into bank accounts in the Philippines.

The only thing stopping a further $20m from being transferred was a spelling mistake in the routing instructions which raised the alarm with an eagle-eyed member of staff.

The US authorities are understood to have offered Bangladesh Bank help in recovering the stolen funds and working out what went wrong.

The incident would seem to highlight the need for international standards governing the cybersecurity readiness of the world’s banks.

The online raid is thought to be one of the biggest in history.

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