Hackers now have the ability to bring down an entire bank by cyberattack, one of the world’s top banking officials is warning.
Gottfried Leibbrandt, the CEO of SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication), said major cyberattacks on banks in three different countries in the past year demonstrated that hackers now have the ability to completely wipe out a major financial institution. SWIFT is a money transfer network for the world’s banks.
“The banks were compromised, credentials to payment generation systems were obtained to send fraudulent payments, and the statements/confirmations from their counterparties were obfuscated,” Leibbrandt  revealed at a conference in Brussels.
SWIFT previously had warned that the attacks are “part of a wider and highly adaptive campaign.”
Three attacks have him concerned:
- The February 1, 2016, theft  of $101 million from the national bank in Bangladesh. Experts are particularly worried about this attack because the crooks were able to transfer the money out of the Bangladesh bank’s accounts at the New York Federal Reserve.
- The January 1, 2015, theft  of $12 million from Banco del Austro SA in Ecuador. In a lawsuit against one of America’s largest banks, Wells Fargo & Company, Banco del Austro alleged that crooks got the SWIFT codes from Wells Fargo that allowed them to make the transfer.
- The 2015 theft of 1 million euros ($1.1 million) from TPBank in Vietnam. The money was taken through a fraudulent money transfer and it nearly caused the bank to collapse, Bloomberg.
“In the recent cases, thieves were able to move just some of those banks’ overseas assets,” Leibbrandt said. “As a result, for the banks concerned, the events haven’t been existential. The point is that they could have been.”
Officials are concerned because thieves were easily able to circumvent bank security and infect computers with malware, and then transfer money out of accounts, CNN reported.
Since SWIFT connects almost any bank in the world, hackers can use it to send money almost anywhere.
“The financial industry, as a community, has to be clear that cyber risk is big; there will be more cyber attacks. And inevitably some will be successful,” he said.
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