SWIFT recently urged financial institutions relying on its software for financial transactions to boost cybersecurity measures until November 19 or face being reported to regulators, according to an internal letter.
The $81 million losses caused by the Bangladesh breach has not only led to investigations into banks’ systems, but also into SWIFT’s security practices. Advising banks to update their internal security infrastructure – from hardware to stronger authentication mechanisms – SWIFT believes cybercriminals will be less likely to attack individual banks and compromise transactions.
While suggesting regulators will be notified in case of failure to comply with their security recommendations, the internal letter mentioned that they’ve also identified other cybercriminal attempts at subverting their payment systems. Emphasizing the sophisticated nature of the attack, SWIFT believes these cybercriminals will not likely stop at any time soon.
“Customers’ environments have been compromised, and subsequent attempts (were) made to send fraudulent payment instructions,” according to the letter. “The threat is persistent, adaptive and sophisticated – and it is here to stay.”
Investigations into these SWIFT-related cyber-attacks have revealed that banks lacked firewall security systems and deployed second-hand network switches prone to vulnerabilities.
Without directly naming financial institutions or giving exact details on the nature of these attacks, the letter suggests that the global financial messaging system is deeply concerned about these cyberattacks and their consequences.
Banking authorities have already started ordering and advising banks to secure all computers connected to SWIFT systems, while other officials have expressed the need for a coordinated strategy to fight off such attacks on financial institutions.