Published: Sun, April 16, 2017
Industry | By Faith Ward

U.S. spies hacked global banking system


Files released by the mysterious hacker "Shadow Brokers" on Friday suggested the US National Security Agency (NSA) had penetrated the SWIFT banking network and monitored a number of Middle East banks.

The Windows hacking tools may have been used to target the SWIFT financial security system, specifically an anti-money laundering financial institution called EastNets.

The exploits that could be used to hack vulnerable systems have been published by the Shadow Brokers on Friday.

Quoting its CEO and founder Hazem Mulhim, EastNets added: "While we cannot ascertain the information that has been published, we can confirm that no EastNets customer data has been compromised in anyway".

Analysts say numerous exploits revealed appear to be three years old or more, but have some unknown vulnerabilities that could still be used by other hackers.

SWIFT said that it has no evidence that its primary network has been accessed without authorisation. It operates as a messaging system for such things as letters of credit, payments and securities transactions between banks.

Cyberthieves stole US$81 million from Bangladesh's central bank last May after a bank official's computer was hacked, enabling the thieves to order money transfers from the bank's account at the New York Federal Reserve.

Analysis The Shadow Brokers have leaked more hacking tools stolen from the NSA's Equation Group - this time easy-to-use exploits that attempt to hijack venerable Windows systems, from Windows 2000 up to Server 2012 and Windows 7 and 8. When the Shadow Brokers recognized that the exploits were no longer valuable zerodays, they published them in a campaign created to sow confusion.

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Another prominent security researcher, Cris Thomas, said the NSA hack was carried out "presumably as a way to monitor, if not disrupt, financial transactions to terrorist groups".

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) provides a network that enables financial institutions worldwide to send and receive information about financial transactions in a secure, standardised and reliable environment.

Snowden, for his part, is pointing a finger at the NSA.

"Is being too bad nobody deciding to be paying theshadowbrokers for just to shutup and going away", the group stated in a blog post announcing the new release, which is written in their characteristic broken English. Microsoft Security Response Center, naturally, recommends that users keep their machines up to date to ensure that they're protected.

The ShadowBrokers have been leaking NSA hacking tools since August.

Microsoft researchers were working late into the hours the Friday before this holiday weekend looking to address yesterday's Shadow Brokers dump of Windows exploits.

Microsoft told CNNTech no one from the government had contacted it about the exploits listed in the dump.

A Microsoft spokesperson told CNN that they were reviewing the report and will "take the necessary actions to protect our customers".

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