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Hackers nick $60m from Taiwanese bank in tailored SWIFT attack

Arrests after customized malware apparently used to drain millions

Updated Hackers managed to pinch $60m from the Far Eastern International Bank in Taiwan by infiltrating its computers last week. Now, most of the money has been recovered, and two arrests have been made in connection with the cyber-heist.

On Friday, the bank admitted the cyber-crooks planted malware on its PCs and servers in order to gain access to its SWIFT terminal, which is used to transfer funds between financial institutions across the world.

The malware's masterminds, we're told, managed to harvest the credentials needed to commandeer the terminal and drain money out of the bank. By the time staff noticed the weird transactions, $60m had already been wired to banks in the US, Cambodia, and Sri Lanka.

Far Eastern vice president Liu Lung-kuang claimed, as they always do, that the software nasty used in the attack was of a type never seen before. No customer information was accessed during the hackers' raid, he said, and the bank would cover any losses.

According to the Taipei Times, the Taiwanese Premier William Lai has thrust a probe into the affair, and has asked the banking sector to investigate. Interpol has already begun its inquiries, and – thanks to security mechanism introduced between banks – all but $500,000 has been recovered.

Two arrests connected to the theft were made in Sri Lanka and, according to the Colombo Gazette, one of them is Shalila Moonesinghe. He's the head of the state-run Litro Gas company and was cuffed after police allegedly found $1.1m of the Taiwanese funds in his personal bank account. Another suspect is still at large.

There has been a spate of cyber-attacks against banks in which miscreants gain access to their SWIFT equipment to siphon off millions. The largest such heist was in February 2016 when hackers unknown (possibly from North Korea) stole $81m while trying to pull off the first $1bn electronic cyber-robbery.

SWIFT has, apparently, tried to help its customers shore up their security; it seems the banking sector as a whole needs to be more on its toes to prevent future unauthorized accesses. ®

Updated to add

A spokesman for SWIFT has been in touch to stress: "The SWIFT network was not compromised in this attack."

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