Banks Scrutinize SWIFT Following Electronic Heists

JP Morgan said it was restricting access to the SWIFT interbank messaging system following a string of fraud attempts.

In-brief: U.S. banking giant JP Morgan Chase is limiting employees’ access to the SWIFT  messaging service, the latest response to a string of attacks on the critical, interbank service.

U.S. banking giant JP Morgan Chase is limiting employees’ access to the SWIFT  messaging service, following a string fraudulent transfers – or attempted transfers – that exploited weaknesses in the global interbank network, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The recent attacks prompted a review by JP Morgan of employees’ access to the SWIFT system and resulted in a trimming of permissions as a precautionary measure, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a source with knowledge of the bank’s thinking.

SWIFT has been the connecting thread in a string of high-profile attacks on banks in recent months, including a successful attack on a bank in Bangladesh that resulted in the fraudulent transfer of $100 million, $81 million of which was never recovered. This week, reports said that a group of cyber criminals in December unsuccessfully attempted to wire €1.2 million ($1.36 million) from the an unnamed bank in Vietnam to TPBank in Slovenia, according to a report by Reuters that cites both the State Bank of Vietnam and TPBank sources.


The attacks leverage stolen SWIFT network credentials to send fraudulent money transfer requests to banks, according to a report in Wired on Tuesday that detailed the attacks.

SWIFT maintains that its network was not compromised in the attacks, but has urged members to review security controls around its service. In a statement released on May 13, the bank-supported organization said that malware used in a “wider and highly adaptive campaign targeting banks.”

In both instances, SWIFT said, attackers have exploited vulnerabilities in banks funds’ transfer initiation environments then used that access to send SWIFT messages. Attackers have also altered statements and confirmations that banks use as secondary controls on transfers, delaying discovery of the fraud.

SWIFT has urged banks to review security controls, including employee screening, passwords and more.

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