The U.S. Federal Reserve has detected more than 50 breaches on its computer system between the years 2011 and 2015.
The cyberattacks, which include several incidents described as "espionage" by Fed records, indicate that the nation's central bank could be vulnerable to hackers and spies.
The cybersecurity reports, which Reuters obtained through the Freedom of Information Act request, raise concerns because the Fed's computer systems have a critical role in global banking.
CarbonBlack national security strategist Eric O'Neil described the Federal Reserve as a gold mine for economic espionage, citing that it holds information about the U.S. government's monetary and economic policies, which include upcoming decisions.
Targeting the Fed would allow other nations to get ahead on future shifts in U.S. policy. China and Russia, for instance, may potentially gain from inside Fed information, as these countries are major players in the nearly $14 trillion federal debt market, where Fed policies influence interest rates.
"It is a way to improve an economy at the expense of another, and unfortunately, that would be us," O'Neil said.
The reported breaches represent just a slice of all cyber attacks on the Fed because these only include cases that involve the Board of Governors, which is subject to public record laws. The number does not include incidents involving the central bank's 12 privately owned branches scattered across the U.S.
A Federal Reserve representative acknowledged that the central bank faces a barrage of cyberattacks but made it clear that the documents only showed hacking attempts to break into the computer systems. These attacks, the representative assured, were not successful.
"Our security program and processes for detecting and countering attacks are robust and our critical operations have never been affected," the representative said.
The reported breaches come at a time when cybersecurity of banks worldwide is on the limelight after hackers were caught stealing $80 million from the Central Bank of Bangladesh.
The incident was partly blamed on the bank's lapses in security measures, as it was found to have no firewall and uses secondhand routers on computers that are connected to global payment network SWIFT.
Other financial institutions that have been targeted by cyberattacks include JPMorgan, Vietnam's Tien Phong Bank and Ecuador's Banco del Austro.