Cyber Villains Beware… Superheroes are Coming

It was a Friday, the start of the weekend for this predominantly Muslim country. The Bangladesh Bank — Bangladesh’s central bank — was closed.

But Zubair Bin Huda, the bank’s joint director for accounts, was working. It surprised him to find the printer’s tray in the server room empty.

There should have been a stack of reports. Reports that confirmed the transactions sent the day before through Swift, a network system that connects banks around the world.

Yet it was only Monday when the bank realised it had been a victim of a cyberattack. The thieves had attempted to transfer US$951 million, by sending several fake transfer messages via the New York Fed.

The New York Fed stopped most of the payments. But not all.

The hackers still managed to steal a whopping US$81 million. The money travelled to four different accounts in the Philippines. From there it vanished into the casino industry.

And it has never been seen again. The Bangladesh Bank cyberattack is now considered the most successful bank heist in history.

It’s been six months since the robbery, and we are still nowhere close to solving the mystery. All the banks involved are denying responsibility. From Bangladesh to New York and the Philippines.

The only thing known for sure is that the attack began at the Bangladesh Bank. Cybercriminals managed to install malware in their computer system.

The heist has shocked the banking world. It has shown the weaknesses of the global banking system. It has caused central banks to review their procedures.

And it doesn’t end here.

This week, Bitfinex, a Hong Kong based exchange rate website, also suffered a digital heist. The hackers stole almost 120,000 Bitcoins — the world’s largest digital currency. This equals to US$66 million.

Bitcoin did not suffer the breach in security, Bitfinex did. But Bitcoin has lost 21% value against the US dollar since the attack.

The two attacks have something in common: nobody has a clue how the hackers did this.

And the scary part is, banks are ahead of the game in regards to cybersecurity.

Now other businesses are waking up to the fact that anyone can suffer an attack.  Retail, health, tech and auto companies are starting to invest in cybersecurity.

For the auto industry, keeping hackers at bay has become one of the most important issues. As self-driving vehicles and automation gain ground, vehicles will have more data connections. But the concerns are not only about stealing data. They are also about stranding vehicles or crashing them into each other.

Even governments are getting on the bandwagon.

Australia has recently launched a $230 million Cyber Security Strategy to fight back against cyber-villains. We even have our own cyber-superhero. MP Dan Tehan was recently named Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Cyber Security.

Cybersecurity is becoming one of the biggest businesses of the future. Especially in Australia and New Zealand. It is estimated that the cybersecurity market will triple between 2012–2019.

Covata Limited [ASX:CVT] is an Australian company involved in cybersecurity. It is a data encryption security solutions company. The company has headquarters in Sydney and in Virginia, US. It is also a key player in cloud based security. And has recently signed a 10 year deal with Cisco to provide them with encryption technology.

Another Aussie company offering business software solutions is Prophecy International [ASX:PRO]. It started in the 1980s as a private company writing accounting packages. Their star product, Snare, is an analysis tool that addresses critical security requirements.

As threats rise under attack, so will expenditure on cybersecurity.


Selva Freigedo,
For Markets and Money

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Selva Freigedo is an analyst with a background in financial economics. Born and raised in Argentina, she has also lived in Brazil, the US and Spain. She has seen economic troubles firsthand, from economic booms to collapses and the ravaging effects of hyperinflation, high unemployment, deposit freezes and debt default. Selva now writes from her vantage point here in Australia. She is lead Editor at the daily e-letter Markets & Money. And every week, she goes through each report and research note produced by our global network of trusted advisors to find the best investment opportunities for you in Australia and overseas. She packages these opportunities for you in Global Investor.

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