Early last month cybercriminals hacked into Bangladesh’s central bank and managed to steal approximately 81 million dollars, however, it could have been worse. If it weren’t for a spelling error, the theft could have approached a billion dollars. Although the investigation into this crime is still in its early stages, it appears that as with so many types of cybercrimes, this one started with social engineering spear phishing which lured bank employees to unwittingly download the malware used by the hackers to infiltrate the bank’s computers and obtain not just the passwords and cryptographic keys used for electronic fund transfers, but also the emails of bank employees so that they could copy and adapt the emails by which they made their transfers appear legitimate. Armed with this information, the cybercriminals sent dozens of account transfer requests from the Bangladesh central bank to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York where the Bangladesh central bank has accounts containing billions of dollars. The account transfer requests processed by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York electronically sent about 81 million dollars to accounts in the Philippines where the funds were transferred multiple times including transfers to Philippine casinos in an effort to launder the money.
Four transfer requests totaling approximately 81 million dollars were processed in this cyber bank heist when the fifth transfer request to a supposed Sri Lankan non-profit organization aroused suspicion with Deutsche Bank, a routing bank in the transaction due to the misspelling of “foundation” as “fandation” prompting a closer investigation of the transfer request. At the same time, the Federal Reserve also became suspicious at the large number of transfer requests being made to private entities instead of banks, halted the remaining transfer requests and contacted the Bangladesh central bank.
All businesses and governmental agencies have got to do a better job at cybersecurity in general. In particular, greater attention has to be paid to the dangers of social engineering spear phishing which has been at the root of the almost all of the major data breaches at both companies like Target and governmental agencies, such as the Office of Personnel Management.