Bangladesh Bank heist gang used malware and could strike again

A report published by the BAE firm reveals that criminals who stole $101 million from Bangladesh bank used a malware and could strike again.

In March 2016, unknown hackers have stolen more than $100 million from the Bangladesh Bank account at the US Federal Reserve Bank.

The experts confirmed that hackers breached the systems at the Bangladesh Bank in early February and they tried to transfer totaling $951 million from its account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Most of the fraudulent transfers were blocked except $81 million that were routed to accounts in the Philippines where they were diverted to casinos.

Yesterday I commented the new disconcerting news regarding the cyber heist, investigators discovered that the hackers managed to gain access to the Bangladesh Bank network because it was using a cheap network equipment, including second-hand switches and no firewall.

Today the Reuters reported in exclusive that hackers behind the Bangladesh Bank security breach compromised the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) software citing researchers at British defense contractor BAE Systems.

The researchers at BAE firm discovered the presence of malware, dubbed evtdiag.exe, in the systems at the Bangladesh Bank, the code was allegedly used to manipulate SWIFT client software known as Alliance Access.

The hackers took control of credentials that were used to log into the SWIFT system, by the BAE experts discovered that the SWIFT software at the Bangladesh Bank was compromised in order to manage the illicit transfers.

The news Agency reported that the SWIFT confirmed it was aware of malware targeting its client software, for this reason, the organization will release today a software update.

” [SWIFT] spokeswoman Natasha Deteran said SWIFT would release on Monday a software update to thwart the malware, along with a special warning for financial institutions to scrutinize their security procedures.” states the Reuters.

[the security update aims] “to assist customers in enhancing their security and to spot inconsistencies in their local database records.” “the malware has no impact on SWIFT’s network or core messaging services.”

The incident demonstrates that the global financial system could be more vulnerable than previously understood to cyber attacks. Hackers can target any component of the financial systems, including the SWIFT client software.

The experts speculate the malware is part of a wider attack toolkit and was used by hackers to cover the illicit transfers.

“The tool was custom made for this job, and shows a significant level of knowledge of SWIFT Alliance Access software as well as good malware coding skills,” reads a blog post published by the BAE firm.

“This would have hampered the detection and response to the attack, giving more time for the subsequent money laundering to take place.”

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The experts believe the tools used by the hackers could be used for similar attacks in the future.

“The malware registers itself as a service and operates within an environment running SWIFT’s Alliance software suite, powered by an Oracle Database.” continues the post.

Adrian Nish, BAE’s head of threat intelligence, told the Reuters that this cyber heist is one of the most complex ever seen.

“I can’t think of a case where we have seen a criminal go to the level of effort to customize it for the environment they were operating in,” he said. “I guess it was the realization that the potential payoff made that effort worthwhile.”

The Bangladesh Police’s Criminal Investigation Department who is also investigating the case said that investigators had not found evidence of the presence of the malware spotted by BAE researchers, anyway forensics analysis are still ongoing.

I suggest the reading of the report published by BAE, it is full of interesting information.

Pierluigi Paganini

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