In the latest revelation about the Society for Worldwide Interbank Telecommunication’s vulnerability to hackers – who’ve stolen tens of millions of dollars from banks and central banks mostly by stealing the special private keys used to sign off on transactions – Russian authorities revealed that hackers had made off with about 340 million rubles ($6 million) during an attack carried out last year,according to Reuters.
While that’s not the largest sum ever stolen by infiltrating SWIFT (indeed it pales in comparison to the more than $80 million stolen from the Bank of Bangladesh’s reserve account at the New York Fed back in 2016) the news comes just days after Russian authorities said the country’s banking system would be ready to abandon SWIFT if the US and European Union tried to cut off its banks.
In a report about the incident, the Russian authorities said hackers had gained control of a computer at a Russian bank and used SWIFT to transfer the money to their own accounts. Of course, the bureaucrats who run SWIFT from Brussels insist that the SWIFT system itself has never been infiltrated – and that the vulnerabilities exploited by hackers are solely the responsibility of the participating institutions. The irony here is that this is the same excuse advanced by bitcoin evangelists and others who wax about the “immutable” blockchain and its security features, only to overlook that hundreds of millions of dollars in cryptocurrencies have been stolen by hackers over the past few years.
To be sure, SWIFT officials have warned that hacking attacks are becoming “increasingly prominent” after the theft of the Bangladesh funds, which disappeared after landing in accounts based in the Philippines and then Macau.
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