The records represent only a slice of all cyber security breaches at the Federal Reserve
The U.S. Federal Reserve detected more than 50 cyber security breaches between 2011 and 2015, with several incidents described internally as “espionage,” according to Fed records.
The central bank’s staff suspected hackers or spies in many of the cyber security breaches, the records show. The Fed’s computer systems play a critical role in global banking and hold confidential information on discussions about monetary policy that drives financial markets.
“Hacking is a major threat to the stability of the financial system. This data shows why,” said James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. Lewis reviewed the files at the request of Reuters.
The records represent only a slice of all cyber security breaches of the Fed because they include only cases involving the Washington-based Board of Governors, a federal agency that is subject to public records laws. Reuters did not have access to reports by local cyber security teams at the central bank’s 12 privately owned regional branches.
Cyber thieves have targeted large financial institutions around the world, including America’s largest bank JPMorgan, as well as smaller players like Ecuador’s Banco del Austro and Vietnam’s Tien Phong Bank.
In information breaches between 2011 and 2013 – a time when the Fed’s trading desk was buying massive amounts of bonds – Fed staff wrote that the cases involved “malicious code,” referring to software used by hackers. Four hacking incidents in 2012 were considered acts of “espionage,” according to the records.
In all, the Fed’s national team of cyber security experts, which operates mostly out of New Jersey, identified 51 cases of “information disclosure” involving the Fed’s board. It was unclear if the espionage incidents involved foreign governments, as has been suspected in some hacks of federal agencies. Beginning in 2014, for instance, hackers stole more than 21 million background check records from the federal Office of Personnel Management, and U.S. officials attributed the breach to the Chinese government, an accusation denied by Beijing.
U.S. prosecutors in March accused hackers associated with Iran’s government of attacking dozens of U.S. banks. The records point to breaches during a sensitive period for the Fed, which was ramping up aid for the struggling U.S. economy by buying massive quantities of U.S. government debt and mortgage-backed securities.
The Fed’s national cyber security team – the National Incident Response Team, or NIRT – created 263 of the incident reports obtained by Reuters. An internal watchdog has criticized the central bank for cyber security shortcomings. A 2015 audit by the Fed board’s Office of Inspector General found the board was not adequately scanning databases for vulnerabilities or putting enough restrictions on system access.
“There is heightened risk of unauthorized disclosure and inappropriate use of sensitive board information,” according to the audit released in November.
More Here [Reuters]