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Hackers’ Billion-dollar Bank Heist Foiled by Type

An unknown group of hackers nearly stole $1 billion from the Bangladesh central bank in a cyber heist in February. Though the cyber thieves were discovered, they stole about $80 million before being stopped.

According to senior bank officials, the hackers somehow breached Bangladesh Bank’s systems and stole its credentials for payment transfers. The thieves then began sending transfer requests to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Those requests—totaling nearly three dozen—were for transfers from Bangladesh Bank’s accounts at the Federal Reserve to various accounts in Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

Four transfer requests, totaling about $81 million dollars, went through before a fifth request, for $20 million, misspelled the name of Sri Lankan nonprofit organization “Shalika Foundation” as “Shalika Fandation.” The misspelling prompted a routing bank, Deutsche Bank, to contact the Bangladesh central bank for clarification, at which point officials stopped the fraudulent transactions.

Bangladesh Bank has said it has recovered some of the money, and is attempting to recover the rest with the aid of anti-money laundering authorities in the Philippines. Additionally, the Bangladesh government has chastised the Federal Reserve for failing to stop the transfers earlier, and insinuated possible legal action. The Federal Reserve has responded by saying its systems weren’t breached and that it’s been working with Bangladesh Bank officials to try to recover the stolen money.

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