Banks in the Philippines on Alert Following Cyber Attack at Malaysia Central Bank

The Philippines Central Bank (Bangko Sental ng Pilipinas). Photo via Medium

On Saturday, the governor of the Central Bank of the Philippines has cracked an alert to local financial institutions after a cyber attack at the central bank of Malaysia. The hackers attempted to steal money with the use of fraudulent wire transfers.

Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) has announced that no funds were lost during the said incident, which was identified last Tuesday. It said that the plot involved falsified wire-transfer requests over the SWIFT bank messaging network. It is considered to be the latest in a series of electronic heists that are aimed at financial institutions across the globe.

In a phone message, Nestor Espenilla, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor stated: “We issued a general alert reminder as soon as we got BNM advisory to be extra careful over the long holiday. Although banks already do that as SOP (standard operating procedure).”

Espenilla added: “Information sharing is part of enhanced defensive protocols against cyber-crime.”

Officials said that the alert was issued since last Wednesday, and there had been no specific threats so far.

Bank Negara did not disclose who was behind the said hack or how the hackers were able to have access to its SWIFT servers. The central bank supervises 45 commercial banks in Malaysia. On Thursday, it said that there was no disruption to other payment and settlement systems that the central bank operates due to the said cyber attack.

In February 2016, the financial system of the Philippines was thrown into the global spotlight following the discovery of the $81 million that was stolen from the Bangladesh central bank. The money was said to be channelled into various accounts at the Manila-based Rizal Commercial Banking Corp (RCBC), prior to disappearing into the local casino industry.

The Bangladesh heist drove financial institutions around the world to improve their security measures. There is still no word on who was responsible for the said scheme and only around $15 million was retrieved by Dhaka.

In 2016, the Central Bank of the Philippines imposed a fine amounting to a record one billion pesos ($20 million) on RCBC for its failure to prevent the movement of the stolen money. RCBC has accused rogue employees for the said incident.