‘Fandation’ typo raised red flag in digital bank heist


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AML Compliance News: This is one time to be grateful for a typo…

More details are emerging in the digital heist of $100 million from the central bank of Bangladesh. Hackers apparently submitted numerous transfer requests totaling nearly $1 billion dollars, but a typo in one of the first transfer requests raised a red flag.

A Washington Post story Friday detailed how one of the online-payment transfer requests sent through the SWIFT messaging system to the NY Fed included the word “fandation” rather than the correct “foundation.” The first four transfer requests–totaling about $80 million–passed through, but the fifth–for $20 million–included the typo in the name of a non-existent foundation to which the money was to be transferred. According to the Post, a routing bank flagged the transfer as suspicious because of the typo, and this resulted in a request for further confirmation from the central bank in Bangladesh. This chain of events alerted the central bank to the heist in progress, and the nearly three dozen other requests for payment transfers were stopped.

Reuters, which has reported extensively on this crime, reported Friday that central bank officials now believe that malware in the form of a Remote Access Trojan gave the hackers access to computers inside the central bank. Investigators believe that the hackers surveilled the bank for weeks or perhaps longer in order to submit transfer requests that would exactly match the Bangladesh bank’s normal behaviors related to such requests.

Both SWIFT and the NY Fed continue to assert that neither of their systems were compromised. Reuters reports that forensic experts predict that hackers either had an inside person in the central bank in Bangladesh or else the hackers were assisted by an individual(s) who had expert knowledge in these types of digital banking transactions and technologies.

Reuters reports that this hack has banking officials around the world on edge and that leaders of central banks in particular will be paying very close attention to the methods of the hackers and to evaluating their own internal vulnerabilities. Some experts in the field are predicting that this criminal event will spur new standards and requirements in the field.

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