Millions Stolen From Russian, Indian Banks in SWIFT Attacks

Malicious hackers attempted to steal millions of dollars from banks in Russia and India by abusing the SWIFT global banking network. A report published last week by Russia's central bank on the types of attacks that hit financial institutions in 2017 revealed that an unnamed bank was the victim of a successful SWIFT-based attack. A copy of the report currently posted on the central bank's website does not specify how much the hackers stole, but Reuters said they had managed to obtain 339.5 million rubles (roughly £6 million).

According to the organization, the number of targeted attacks aimed at lenders increased in 2017 compared to the previous year. Attackers used widely available tools such as Metasploit, Cobalt Strike, Empire, and Mimikatz to achieve their goals - Cobalt Strike was reportedly used to steal more than 1 billion rubles (roughly £17 million). The news comes after Russia's Globex bank admitted in December that hackers had attempted to steal roughly £940,000 through the SWIFT system.

The attackers reportedly only managed to steal a fraction of the amount they targeted. In India, City Union Bank issued a statement on Sunday saying that it had identified three fraudulent transfers abusing the SWIFT payments messaging system. One transfer of £500,000 through a Standard Chartered Bank account in New York to a bank in Dubai was blocked and the money was recovered.

The second transfer of EUR300,000 (£372,000) was made to an account at a bank based in Turkey via a Standard Chartered Bank account in Germany. The funds were blocked at the Turkish bank and City Union hopes to recover the money. The third transfer was for £1 million and it went to a Chinese bank through a Bank of America account.

City Union Bank said the funds were claimed by someone using forged documents. The news comes after reports that India's Punjab National Bank was the victim of a massive £1.7 billion fraud scheme involving the company's employees. City Union, however, clarified that this was a "cyber attack initiated by international cyber criminals and there is no evidence of internal staff involvement."

SWIFT-based attacks made many headlines in the past years ever since hackers successfully stole £81 million from Bangladesh's central bank in early 2016. The organization behind the SWIFT system, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, has taken measures to prevent attacks, but malicious actors have continued to target financial institutions in sophisticated campaigns. Hackers attempted to steal £60 million from a bank in Taiwan, £12 million from a bank in Ecuador, and £1.1 million from a bank in Vietnam.

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