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Cybersecurity

Crooks Are Using an International Messaging System to Rob Banks

Is Swift safe?
mf_swift24
Illustration: Nejc Prah

The central bank of Bangladesh was the victim of one of the biggest bank heists of all time in February, when thieves made off with $81 million. The perps are still at large—and may have the combinations to many more vaults.

Since the Bangladesh job came to light, other banks have come forward. In Ecuador, a commercial bank said it was held up for $12 million last year. A bank in Vietnam said criminals tried, and failed, to steal $1.1 million in what experts say may have been a practice run for Bangladesh. By late May as many as a dozen more banks, mostly in Southeast Asia, reported break-ins. All of the attacks were committed by cybercriminals, and at least some made use of a messaging system run by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, better known as Swift.