Transfer techies at SWIFT tell Bangladesh Bank: Don't shift blame for $81m cyberheist

Calls it out over 'basic password protection'

Bank vault

SWIFT has firmly rejected Bangladeshi claims that mistakes on its part are to blame after $81m was looted from Bangladesh’s central bank.

Bangladeshi officials claimed earlier this week that technicians from SWIFT had introduced vulnerabilities into the bank's network when connecting a Real-Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) system to SWIFT’s inter-bank financial transaction messaging system.

SWIFT dismissed these allegations as an attempt to shift blame for February’s massive cyber-heist.

SWIFT rejects the false, inaccurate and misleading allegations made by Bangladesh Bank and Bangladesh Police's Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officials to Reuters. The accusations have no basis in fact.

SWIFT was not responsible for any of the issues cited by the officials, or party to the related decisions. As a SWIFT user like any other, Bangladesh Bank is responsible for the security of its own systems interfacing with the SWIFT network and their related environment – starting with basic password protection practices – in much the same way as they are responsible for their other internal security considerations.

A meeting between Bangladesh Bank and New York Federal Reserve Bank officials in Basel, Switzerland is due to take place later today. The bank’s security issues as well as attempts to recover looted security funds are expected to top the agenda.

As well as network infrastructure weaknesses, the hackers behind the heist used custom malware specifically created to target SWIFT. The code even adjusted the SWIFT system’s printed reports to hide fraudulent transfers from the Bangladesh central bank account at the New York Federal Reserve Bank.

Hackers lifted the Bangladesh central bank's keys before forging messages on SWIFT instructing funds to be transferred to accounts under their control, as previously reported.

The Bangladeshi incident is not a one-off. Other thefts of “operator credentials” have happened before, SWIFT previously confirmed. In response to the Bangladeshi incident, the banking organisation pushed a mandatory security update towards customers to “help them enhance their security and to spot inconsistencies in their local database records”.

Several experts welcomed the changes but argued that they fail to go far enough, arguing that wider use of two factor-authentication, among other security controls, is needed. ®


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