The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), which handles the messaging network used to transfer billions of dollars between various international banks every day, announced on Tuesday, May 24 that it will implement a new security program that will prevent cybercriminals from accessing its system again.
During a financial services conference in Belgium, SWIFT CEO Gottfried Leibbrandt said they will reveal a five-point plan later in the week, which will underscore the company's strategy on how to avoid another security breach in their system.
SWIFT has been known to provide a secure means for banks all over the world to send money transfer instructions to each other.
However, cybercriminals hacked into the central bank of Bangladesh's SWIFT network and stole $81 million by sending false messages to New York's Federal Reserve Bank in February.
This is not the first time SWIFT's system has experienced an issue with cybersecurity. In 2015, thieves hacked into Ecuador's Banco del Austro using the same method, allowing them to get away with more than $12 million. Another attack was attempted on the Tien Phong Bank in Vietnam but failed.
The recent string of thefts has severely damaged SWIFT's reputation in the banking community.
Leibbrandt described the heist involving the Bangladesh central bank as a crucial incident for the industry.
"There will be a before and an after Bangladesh," the SWIFT CEO said. "The Bangladesh fraud is not an isolated incident ... this is a big deal. And it gets to the heart of banking."
SWIFT is now calling on banks around the world to carry out drastic improvements on how they share information with each other, to strengthen their procedures for security around SWIFT's own system, and to use programs designed to spot irregularities in payments more often.
For SWIFT's part, Leibbrandt said they are ready to provide assistance to lenders in order to detect potential frauds. He added that they can provide them with tools and guides on how to identify irregularities at the receiving bank.
The company is also willing to provide stricter guidelines for regulators and auditors so that they can better assess whether a particular bank's security procedures for its system meet the right standards.
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