For years, financial institutions around the world have relied upon the Swift payment system for international transactions with partner organisations, individuals, businesses etc. In a way, Swift has proven itself to be a highly efficient, ultra-reliable tool by which the world’s financial infrastructure can operate. Recently, however, a group of as yet unidentified hackers have proven that even a system as secure and heavily defended as Swift can be manipulated in order to help perpetrate cybercrime and digital theft.
According to official reports by global security experts, a team of hackers recently targeted the Bangladesh central bank as part of a massive cyber theft attack involving international money transfer. As a result of the attack, nearly 55 million pounds Sterling were diverted into the hands of these culprits. Although experts now know that the money was transferred to the Philippines, little information has been made available regarding who may have been behind this perfectly executed heist.
This crime has underscore the need for fresh thinking when it comes to designing and properly implementing theft deterrent measures within the Swift network. As it currently stands, there are nearly 11,000 banks and financial institutions which utilise the Swift payment network on a regular basis. In a recent response to the theft, representatives from Swift have stated that the company has known of “…a number of recent cyber incidents in which malicious insiders or external attackers have managed to submit Swift messages from financial institutions’ back offices”.
It is perhaps, reassuring to know that the means by which these criminals were able to manipulate the Swift system was through external means, i.e. the banking infrastructure itself as opposed to the Swift transfer mechanisms. In this heist, for example, Swift merely operated as a means by which the funds were transferred as opposed to the method by which hackers gained access to the funds.
Methods aside, however, this incident serves as a stark reminder that money transfer remains a potentially dangerous and risky tools for businesses and individuals alike. Although the Swift system may not have been directly involved in the heist, it remains the primary vehicle by which one of the world’s larger thefts was successfully completed. More information regarding this shocking crime will likely be made available in the near future. Investigators are actively searching for further information regarding this crime and the identification of possible suspects.