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Hackers steal $1.8m from 2 private banks

  • Published at 10:23 pm June 22nd, 2019
Cyber Criminal
Photo: BIGSTOCK

The sum was stolen from Cyprus, Russia, and Ukraine

In a spate of cyber attacks carried out by international hackers last month, two of the private banks of Bangladesh – Dutch Bangla Bank Limited (DBBL), and Prime Bank Limited – have lost around $1.8 million, according to the sources at Bangladesh Bank. 

Dutch Bangla Bank Limited (DBBL) lost as much as $1.4 million (around Tk11crore), while Prime Bank lost $0.40 million (around Tk3.36crore) to the cyber criminals.  

However, NCC Bank Limited managed to avert financial losses, sources at the central bank confirmed.

These were the biggest cyber attacks after hackers made off with $81 million from Bangladesh Bank’s account with the Federal Reserve Bank in New York around three and a half years ago.

“DBBL and Prime Bank authorities informed us (Bangladesh Bank), on May 5, about the heist reportedly taking place from Cyprus, Russia, and Ukraine,” a top central bank official, preferring anonymity, told Dhaka Tribune.

In the case of DBBL, criminals stole around $1.4 million in the beginning of May from teller machines in those countries using cloned credit cards, and personal Identification Numbers (PINs) of the DBBL. 

The DBBL came to know about the fraud when Visa, a global payment solution provider, asked it to settle payments for transactions made by the bank’s “clients” in Cyprus.

Despite repeated attempts, this corresponded could not contact DBBL Managing Director Abul Kashem Md Shirin to have his comment in this regard. 

In the same process, hackers stole around $0.40 million from an ATM machine in Cyprus using Prime Bank's cloned card. But, Prime Bank's Managing Director Rahel Ahmed denied the matter, saying: "We did not face any hacking attempts." 

An official of the NCC Bank confirmed to Dhaka Tribune that they have also faced cyber attacks, but avoided any financial loss.

Following the reports filed by DBBL and Prime Bank, the state bank held a meeting with the heads of the IT divisions, retail banking, and card divisions of the concerned banks on May 5 to discuss the issue. 

Around two weeks later, on June 1, nine ATM booths of DBBL in Dhaka suffered cyber attacks by an international hacking group, which stole around Tk 16 lakh. Law enforcers later arrested six Ukrainians in connection with the theft.

All the private banks, especially those who deal with international credit and debit cards, have been issued notices to keep vigilant regarding foreign nationals, and people with suspicious behavior while stepping into ATM booths. 

The recent incidents have created worries over the country’s banking sector as these types of hacking attempts were much different from the previous incidents of hacking, said Md Mahbubur Rahman Alam, associate professor of Bangladesh Institute of Bank Management (BIBM). 

He said: “This type of fraudulent activities are very new in our country, but not in other countries. So, all the local banks here must update their systems, as well as anti-virus, and anti-spam software. The authorities of the banks should have increased their allocations to the IT sector.”

As the hackers have the ability to hack international credit cards, they can heist money from any ATM machines in any country, he added. 

According to a recent BIBM research paper, the IT departments of around 50% banks of the country are faced with security threats, as they are still lacking managed switch, next generation firewalls, and Email gateways, which are vital for ensuring network security in banks.