Cyber Attacks Increasingly Target Interbank Payment Platforms: Report
28 Mar 2019

Cyber attackers are more frequently and more effectively targeting core banking systems, including payment messaging and transaction authorizations, according to a recent report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

While targeted network intrusions against banks have become a weekly occurrence, cyber crooks have become harder to detect and investigate as hacker networks increasingly coordinate with organized crime groups and utilize malware and other tools to impede law enforcement and evade detection, the report found.

The attacks on financial institutions over the past five years have reflected a greater understanding, not only of how to bypass network security controls, but also of the workings of interbank payment messaging platforms used across the globe, including the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), the report said.

During a 2016 cyber heist of some $81million from a Bangladesh Bank-controlled account maintained by the Federal Reserve Bank in New York, attackers used SWIFT’s payment interfaces and implemented a custom-made “hot patch” to circumvent certain security controls, the report noted.

Last year, hackers exploited software used to access the intra-Mexico SPEI payment system to steal millions of dollars from at least five financial institutions, according to Reuters.

“Today, targeted intrusions have become the norm,” wrote the authors, Adrian Nish and Saher Naumaan of BAE Systems’ Applied Intelligence. “Security vendors have raised awareness of the threat by publicizing information about high-end campaigns, but this publicity has also spread the knowledge of how to build advanced tools and operate covertly,” they said.


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