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How hackers made off with millions

It’s been a little over a year since the New York Federal Reserve and the SWIFT international transaction system were breached in a cyber-attack that resulted in $81 million stolen from a Bangladesh central bank account — one of the biggest known bank thefts in history. The attack exposed major weaknesses in the SWIFT network and prompted regulators around the world to tighten bank security requirements.

Over the last 13 months, Reuters has delivered unmatched coverage on the still-evolving story, with exclusive news, insights and special reports from across the globe. As we continue to monitor this captivating story, here are some highlights from Reuters coverage thus far:

●     $81 million was stolen, but nearly $1 billion was the plan. The hackers sent through a number of money transfer requests, but not all got through. The transactions that were stopped totaled $850-$870 million. Had all of the transfers been processed, it would have been an almost $1 billion heist!

●     A typo helped prevent the billion dollar bank heist. In one of the transaction requests, the hackers requested a money transfer to the NGO Shalika foundation, but misspelled “foundation” in the NGO’s name as “fandation” — prompting a routing bank to seek clarification before proceeding.

●     Cheap switches were an expensive mistake. Bangladesh Bank’s use of cheap ($10) switches and lack of a firewall made the bank very vulnerable to an attack.

●     And an investigator said there was help from the inside. Some Bangladesh central bank officials deliberately exposed its computer systems and enabled hackers to steal $81 million from its account at the NY Fed, a top police investigator told Reuters.

●     Not so SWIFT – Bank messaging system slow to address weak points. Sources closely connected to SWIFT told Reuters the organization had long suspected there were weaknesses in the way smaller banks used its messaging system, but did not take measures to address potential vulnerabilities.

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) is the bank messaging system that helps transmit billions of dollars around the world every day. The SWIFT messaging platform connects more than 10,000 institutions in over 200 countries and territories. SWIFT is a cooperative owned by banks and is headquartered in Belgium.


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For more on the story, check out this dynamic package of Reuters coverage. You can also go behind the scenes for an inside look at Reuters reporting, and be sure to stay tuned to Reuters.com and Reuters TV for more great coverage as this story continues to unfold.

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