SWIFT CEO promises to beef up Cyber Security following bank heist controversy
Just two days ago we grumbled that SWIFT and indeed the banks were doing a great job on dodging accountability, but clearly not doing enough to beef up cyber security to address the latest issues (here).
The head of the SWIFT financial network has put forward a five-part plan to beef up cyber security after its systems were the focus of several cyberattacks. Gottfried Leibbrandt (SWIFT CEO) gave a keynote on Tuesday at a financial services conference in Brussels and promised the organization would work harder to ensure that incidents like last month’s theft of $81m from Bangladesh’s central bank were not possible in future.
Although Leibbrandt reiterated his point that SWIFT’s systems had not been compromised, the highly critical reaction to the network’s initial not-my-problem response clearly had an impact, and some crumbs of humble pie were visible on the lectern.
Hackers had managed to gain access to Bangladesh Bank’s central keys and use them through the SWIFT international money system to divert funds. From SWIFT’s perspective the issue lies with the bank: their systems had been compromised.
At the time of the hack, SWIFT responded aggressively to suggestions that it was in some way responsible for the theft, putting out an announcement that read in part: “SWIFT rejects the false, inaccurate and misleading allegations made by Bangladesh Bank and Bangladesh Police’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officials to Reuters. The accusations have no basis in fact.”
This time, in his response to the Bangladeshi bank scam, he said: “Two questions pop up for SWIFT, at least they have in the press. One: isn’t SWIFT in the middle of all of this? Two: What are you going to do about it?”
But it wasn’t long before security experts pointed out that SWIFT’s security systems were out of step with the modern world. Its security guidelines are “outdated and incomplete,” said one analysis. Its systems were set up to deal with “the types of attacks that were prevalent a decade ago,” and the network fails to safeguard against today’s more sophisticated hacks – like the one suffered by the Bangladeshi bank.
As just one example, SWIFT offers but does not insist on two-factor authentication, which is pretty much standard on most systems where critical information is approved.
The outcry gave SWIFT the reason to revisit their policies. The organization promised to take another look at its security. That look comes in five parts, which are currently relatively vague but which the organization has promised to turn into real action.
The 5 step SWIFT plan to beef up Cyber Security
- Drastically improve information sharing among the global financial community.
- Harden security requirements for customer-managed software.
- Enhance guidelines and develop security audit frameworks for customers.
- Support banks’ increased use of payment pattern controls to identify suspicious behavior.
- Introduce certification requirements for third-party providers.
In other words, do what the organization should have done this long ago as part of its job several years ago.
“Back before mainframes, ATMs, mobile banking and PCs, it was all about men and guns,” he said. “Now it is about men in hoodies hunkering over keyboards.” Leibbrandt added. If he imagines that the kind of people that are breaking into a central bank, grabbing authorization keys, using SWIFT networks against it even to the extent of adjusting printed reports to hide fraudulent transfers, and then moving the money to accounts that can’t be got at are “men in hoodies,” he continues to massively underestimate the modern cybercriminal.