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Second hacking group targets SWIFT-connected banks

Odinaff shares links with Carbanak

A second group of hackers – Odinaff – has broken into the SWIFT system, the fulcrum of the global financial payments system.

Odinaff were found to be using the same approach as those who stole $81m from the Bangladesh central bank earlier this year.

Attacks involving the Odinaff trojan and associated tools appear to have begun in January, 2016. The attacks have hit a wide range of regions with the US the most frequently targeted, followed by Hong Kong, Australia, the UK, and Ukraine.

It’s unclear to what extent these attacks have been successful – much less how much money the hackers have extracted.

The targets are mostly banks and other financial institutions. Malware is spread through spear-phishing emails, many of which come with malicious macros. Password-protected RAR archives are another potential lure.

Some Odinaff infections have been pushed through botnets onto already-infected machines. Security firm Symantec has found evidence of tools capable of manipulating SWIFT customers’ transfer logs and wiping computers to hide traces of activity, it claims.

“The attacks involving Odinaff share some links to the Carbanak group, whose activities became public in late 2014,” according to its security response team. “Carbanak also specializes in high-value attacks against financial institutions and has been implicated in a string of attacks against banks, in addition to point of sale intrusions.”

Three command and control IP addresses connected to previously reported Carbanak campaigns also feature in Odinaff. It may be that the two groups are cooperating with each other.

Kevin Bocek, chief cybersecurity strategist at Venafi, said: “These attacks on SWIFT are like old-school bank robberies for a digital age; the hackers are taking money right from the bank’s safe.

“This is a shift from previous attacks that have been more focused on stealing from banking customers. After the success of the first SWIFT hack, it’s unsurprising to see the headlines doing the rounds again and I’d be shocked if this is the last we see of it.” ®

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