Swift CEO Says There Will Be Changes In Messaging Service Following Breaches, Reports

Gottfried Leibbrandt spoke about a variety of changes being made to Swift following cybercriminals stealing $81 million from Bangladesh's central bank, according to multiple media reports.

leibbrandt-gottfried
Gottfried Leibbrandt, Swift

Gottfried Leibbrandt, CEO for the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (Swift), says the global messaging services that connects over 11,000 financial firms will undergo changes following hackers using Swift to steal $81 million from Bangladesh's central bank, according to media reports.

According to a Bloomberg story, hackers were able to install malware into Bangladesh's central bank in January, allowing them to steal keystrokes and eventually send fake messages over the Swift network on Feb. 4. Nearly $1 billion was asked to be sent from the central bank's account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, according to the story. And while most requests were flagged, five were executed and money was sent to accounts in the Philippines.

The breach didn't occur within Swift's infrastructure, according to the story, putting Swift in an interesting situation. While the organization itself wasn't hacked, its users were, putting the entire community at risk.

Kicked Out

In interviews with Bloomberg, Financial Times and Reuters, Leibbrandt spoke of changes the messaging service is considering in the wake of the breaches. Leibbrandt mentioned the possibility of removing members from the community due to lack of necessary security.

The Financial Times reported that Swift is talking to financial regulators ─ Bank for International Settlements and the Financial Stability Board were mentioned, specifically ─ about adding security requirements to its standards. Leibbrandt also mentioned in the same piece that Swift was interested in creating a program to certify auditors that would be able to check community members' cybersecurity.

Banning firms from Swift isn't unprecedented. According to the FT, Swift suspended the memberships of Iranian banks because of European sanctions in 2012. However, those firms were granted access this year when the sanctions were lifted. 

Reuters reported that Leibbrandt said his firm will need to decrease certain operations in order to fund some of these new security initiatives. The CEO declined to get into details of where those reductions would take place.

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