Crooks Are Using an International Messaging System to Rob Banks

Bushra Zia

Crooks Are Using an International Messaging System to Rob Banks

Published: June 2, 2016


Article Overview

“Is Swift safe?

The central bank of Bangladesh was the victim of one of the biggest bank heists of all time in February, when thieves made off with $81 million. The perps are still at large—and may have the combinations to many more vaults.

Since the Bangladesh job came to light, other banks have come forward. In Ecuador, a commercial bank said it was held up for $12 million last year. A bank in Vietnam said criminals tried, and failed, to steal $1.1 million in what experts say may have been a practice run for Bangladesh. By late May as many as a dozen more banks, mostly in Southeast Asia, reported break-ins.

All of the attacks were committed by cybercriminals, and at least some made use of a messaging system run by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, better known as Swift. Swift connects 11,000 members, including central and commercial banks, brokers, money managers, and multinational corporations in more than 200 countries and territories. As many as 27.5 million Swift messages are sent daily.

The breaches undermine trust and may hurt business in developing countries, if foreign banks worry whether it’s a real bank or a crook on the other end of the line. “If banks lose confidence in Swift, they will either have to live with the discomfort or reduce their participation in cross-border payments,” says Erin McCune, a payments strategist at consulting group Glenbrook Partners.” (Bloomberg Businessweek)



With cybercriminals being able to perpetrate international banking systems, it makes you wonder if you’re bank is safe. If you lose trust in Swift, the backbone of international banking industry, then there isn’t much to depend upon. Cashing under the mattress is the only other option.


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