Globalized Digital Bank Robbers Feast on Latin America

A virtual paradise for real bank heists.

The year 2018 is turning out to be a bumper year for the world’s burgeoning ranks of bank hackers. Last week alone, Chile’s second biggest bank, Banco de Chile, reported losing around €10 million in a bank heist targeting the bank’s local SWIFT network. And embattled UK lender TSB admitted that 1,300 customers have been victims of fraud attacks since its botched attempt to upgrade its IT system. That number is likely to continue to rise as the bank struggles to get its act together.

These incidents follow on the heels of a flurry of highly sophisticated bank hacks in Mexico. The first attack took place in early January when hackers tried to steal $110 million from Bancomext, a state-owned trade bank. The plan was to siphon off the money via the bank’s connection to the international Swift payment network, but the virtual heist was detected just in time.

It wasn’t the first time hackers had targeted a bank’s connections to SWIFT, which is used by the global banking industry to shift trillions of dollars each day. In 2015 cyber thieves broke into the system to pilfer $12 million from Ecuador’s Banco del Austro. In 2016, hackers tried, but failed, to snatch $1.1 million from Vietnam’s Tieng Phong Commerical Joint Stock Bank. A year later the most audacious cyber attack yet was launched, against the Bangladesh Central Bank. The thieves got away with $81 million.

After that, many banks began tightening the security of their SWIFT messaging networks. But many lenders in Mexico apparently didn’t

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