Sunday, October 22, 2017

Swift under cyber attack, Nepali banks feel the heat

Some Nepali banks have become latest victim to hackers siphoning off millions of dollars by targeting the backbone of the world financial system, SWIFT. Though, account-holders need not worry as their deposits parked in the bank are safe, the international wire transfer has come under suspicion as the incidents have been repeatedly occurring across the globe.
SWIFT – Society for Worldwide Interbank Telecommunication – is a global financial messaging system that thousands of banks and commercial organisations across the world use to transfer billions of dollars every day. SWIFT claims that over 90 per cent of fund transfers in the world take place through SWIFT.
Though, other banks have also been suspected under attack, unidentified cyber criminals have reportedly hacked into the SWIFT system of NIC Asia Bank and stole money, exposing vulnerability in the information technology system of the banks in the country, according to the central bank that has confirmed the reported cyber theft which took place during the Tihar vacation – October 19 to October 21 – when all the banks and the central monetary authority remained closed.
After the request of the bank, the central bank has today sent a team to take stock of the situation. NIC Asia has also already requested the central bank to initiate the cancellation of transfer of funds with the central banks of other countries, where the money already have been transferred. Meanwhile, it has not been clear, how, where and how much money have been transferred from Nepali banks.
"We, however, have not been able to confirm the exact amount of money that has been illegally transferred through multiple small transactions via SWIFT,” central bank's deputy spokesperson Rajendra Pandit said, adding that the central bank has also written to international banks and central banks of different countries not to entertain transactions generated from NIC Asia.
Apartfrom NIC Asia Bank, Prabhu Bank, NMB Bank and Prime Commercial bank's SWIFT codes have also been suspected to have been hacked by unknown hackers by using malware in their system.
However, the attack on NIC Asia closely resembles the 'biggest-ever cyber heist' that took place in Bangladesh. In May 2016, cyber criminals had hacked into the computer of a Bangladeshi central bank official to make illegal payments via SWIFT. The criminals had sent messages to the New York Federal Reserve seeking to transfer nearly $1 billion from Bangladesh Bank’s account. Though, most of the transfers were blocked, about $81 million was sent to a bank in the Philippines.
In 2016 a Turkish hacking group 'Bozkurtlar' or 'Grey Wolves' had hacked two Nepali banks – Business Universal Development Bank and Sanima Bank – and Bangladeshi banks, Dutch-Bangla Bank, The City Bank, and Trust Bank run by Army Welfare Trust.
A US-based cyber security website had reported on May 13, 2016 that the stolen data was ‘apparently posted online’ on May 10 by the group Bozkurtlar.
According to the report, the same hacking group had leaked data tied to Qatar National Bank and UAE's InvestBank also.
A report prepared by the Russia-based computer security firm Kaspersky Lab had said international cyber criminals had attempted to attack financial institutions in Nepal using a malware called Carbanak.
According to the experts, the hackers normally exploit vulnerabilities in the systems of member banks, allowing them to gain control of the banks’ legitimate SWIFT credentials.
The hackers then use those credentials to send SWIFT funds transfer request to other banks, which, trusting the messages to be legitimate, then sent the funds to accounts controlled by them.
Lately, numbers of developed nations have been struggling to address cyber attack as it has posed serious threat to the global financial market.


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