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A typo stalls a $1billion bank heist

Alert officials from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York stop hackers from stealing $1 billion.

In a banking heist that has gone down as a record in history, hackers have managed to steal $80 million from one of Bangladesh’s central banks. A typo however prevented them from stealing $1 billion, as per bank officials.
As per two senior officials from Bangladesh’s central bank, hackers had managed to break into its banking system and had got their hands on the login credentials for payment transfers. They then sent a series of requests to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York requesting them to transfer funds from Bangladesh’s bank to entities in Sri Lanka and the Philippines.
Four such transfers involving a total of $81 million to the Philippines went through, the fifth however got stuck due to a spelling mistake. The transfer request to move $20 million to a Sri Lankan based NGO Shalika Foundation got held up because the hackers misspelt the name of the Foundation.
Instead of Shalika Foundation, the hackers keyed in “fandation” which prompted a routing bank, Deutsche Bank, to seek a clarification which stopped the transfer in its track, said officials.
During the same time, the unusually high number of payment requests raised the suspicion levels of officials at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York who promptly alerted their Bangladeshi counterparts.
Incidentally, the Bangladesh bank has billions of dollars in its current accounts with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which is used for settling international claims.
The transactions that were stopped amounted to $850-$870 million, said a banking official. The Bangladesh Bank has managed to partially recover the amount that was stolen. It is now working with anti-money laundering authorities in the Philippines so as to recover the rest.
Although it is more than a month since the attack has taken place, Bangladeshi officials are still in the process of identifying weaknesses in their systems and shoring up their security. The investigation could take months, with little hope of ever catching the perpetrators of the crime.
As per security experts, the hackers seemed to have a significant knowledge of the bank’s inner workings, which in most likelihood, were gained by spying on its workers.
Bangladesh’s Finance Minister, Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, has said the Federal Reserve Bank of New York must take responsibility for this crime.
"The Fed must take responsibility," said Abul Maal Abdul Muhith.
The country may resort to suing the Fed in an effort to recover the money. On its part the New York Federal Bank has said that its systems were not breached. Ever since the incident occurred it has been helping the Bangladeshi central bank to shore up its defenses.
As per officials, the hack occurred between February 4 and 5, during a weekend when the bank’s offices were shut. Security experts have founds the digital footprints suggesting that the Bangladesh bank’s systems were compromised. Computer security experts have also said the attack originated from a location outside Bangladesh.

Officials suspect that the money that has been traced to the Philippines may have trickled down to casinos. The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp, which oversees the country’s casino industry said it has launched its own investigation into the affair. Philippines anti-money laundering authority is also working on the case.
The dizzying global reach of this heist only goes to underscore the growing threat of cybercrime and how malicious hackers are increasingly finding chinks in the digital security systems that secure computer networks.

Debashish Mukherjee

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