Hacked: How $171 mn stolen from Union Bank was recovered
Details emerge of how the money was retrieved from accounts in four different countries after government intervention
Even as the government marked Digital India Day, encouraging more Indians to move to banking online, investigators and cyber security agencies are battling more breaches of banking transfer security, admitting that “non-state” actors are increasingly targeting India.
Details are only just emerging of the biggest such hack of $171 million in July 2016, which necessitated a seven-country hunt that had to be spearheaded at the top levels of government to reverse the theft. The hack involved a transfer double the size of the Bangladesh Central Bank that lost $81 million in February 2016, but most details have been kept under wraps so far.
Chairman of the Union Bank of India Arun Tiwari as well as India’s cyber security chief, Dr. Gulshan Rai, who were involved in the operation, confirmed to The Hindu that while the attack was serious, all of the money had been retrieved within days.HT: The WSJ's Corruption Currents blog.
“We worked in record time with the Reserve Bank of India, bank authorities and government agencies coordinating efforts. The bank succeeded in blocking the transfer of funds and credited the entire amount in a record period of six days,” Mr. Rai, who is the country’s first Chief Information Security Officer, said.
“Investigations have been carried out by different agencies. And whatever was suggested [to improve security], has been implemented,” Mr. Tiwari said.
Events unfolded on the evening of July 20, towards the end of the bank-week, officials said, piecing together the sequence. On that Thursday, a Union Bank of India official in the treasury department looking at SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) payments was checking statements for the day from their dollar account, when he noticed a startling discrepancy. An amount of $171 million had been debited from the bank without his authorisation. He quickly raised a red flag to the bank’s top management about the transaction. “I haven’t authorised any such payment last night,” he reportedly told the bank’s management.
By then the money had found its way to at least five locations, including accounts in Cambodia’s Canadia Bank and RHB IndoChina Bank, Thailand’s Siam Commercial Bank, Bank Sinopac in Taiwan, and a bank in Australia. These funds were routed by Citibank New York and JP Morgan Chase New York, which hold UBI’s foreign exchange accounts....MORE