Russia says foreign spies in cyber attack on Russian banking system — Hackers stole more than 2 billion rubles

Reuters

By Christian Lowe and Natalia Zinets | MOSCOW/KIEV

Russia said on Friday it had uncovered a plot by foreign spy agencies to sow chaos in Russia’s banking system via a coordinated wave of cyber attacks and fake social media reports about banks going bust.

Russia’s domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service (FSB), said that the servers to be used in the alleged cyber attack were located in the Netherlands and registered to a Ukrainian web hosting company called BlazingFast.

The attack, which was to target major national and provincial banks in several Russian cities, was meant to start on Dec. 5, the FSB said in a statement.

“It was planned that the cyber attack would be accompanied by a mass send-out of SMS messages and publications in social media of a provocative nature regarding a crisis in the Russian banking system, bankruptcies and license withdrawals,” it said.

“The FSB is carrying out the necessary measures to neutralize threats to Russia’s economic and information security.”

The statement did not say which countries’ intelligence agencies were behind the alleged plot.

SITUATION ‘UNDER CONTROL’

Russia’s central bank said it was aware of the threat and was in constant contact with the security services. In a statement sent to Reuters, it said it had drawn up a plan to counteract any attack.

“The situation is under control. Banks have been given necessary guidance,” the central bank said.

Anton Onoprichuk, director of Kiev-based BlazingFast, said neither the FSB nor any other intelligence agency had been in touch with his company. He told Reuters he was waiting for more information so his firm could investigate.

Asked if his servers could be used to mount a cyber attack he said: “Technically it is possible. It is possible with any hosting company, where you rent a server. You can attack whatever (you want) from it and in 99 percent of cases it will become known only after the event.”

Russia has been on high alert for foreign-inspired cyber attacks since U.S. officials accused the Kremlin of being involved in hacks on Democratic Party emails during the U.S. presidential election.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said at the time that the United States would mount a “proportional” response to Russia.

Since then, there have been a number of cyber attacks affecting Russian institutions, though it is unclear if they were linked to the row between Moscow and Washington.

In October, a network of Ukrainian hackers released a cache of emails obtained from the account of an aide to Kremlin adviser Vladislav Surkov.

And on Nov. 11, Russian lenders Sberbank and Alfa Bank said they had been hit by cyber attacks

Sberbank on Friday declined to comment on the FSB’s statement. The press service of VTB, Russia’s second-largest state-run lender, said its security systems guaranteed clients’ transactions were completely protected.

(Additional reporting by Natalia Zinets in KIEV, Elena Fabrichnaya and Kira Zavyalova in MOSCOW; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

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DEC 2 2016, 4:30 PM ET

Reuters

Hackers stole more than 2 billion rubles ($31 million) from correspondent accounts at the Russian central bank, the bank said on Friday, the latest example of an escalation of cyber attacks on financial institutions around the globe.

Central bank official Artyom Sychyov discussed the losses at a briefing, saying that the hackers had attempted to steal about 5 billion rubles.

A padlock is displayed at the Alert Logic booth during the 2016 Black Hat cyber-security conference in Las Vegas
REUTERS/David Becker

Sychyov was commenting on a central bank report released earlier in the day, that told about hackers breaking into accounts there by faking a client’s credentials. The bank provided few other details in its lengthy report.

Financial regulators around the world have recently urged banks to beef up cyber security in the wake of a string of high-profile heists on banks around the world.

Fears about attacks on banks have mounted since February when unknown cyber criminals stole $81 million in funds that Bangladesh’s central bank had on deposit at the New York Fed. Law enforcement agencies around the globe are hunting for the criminals who stole the money using fraudulent wire-transfer requests sent over the SWIFT bank messaging network.

Related: Hacker’s Typo Tipped Off Authorities to Billion-Dollar Bank Heist

Separately, Russia said on Friday that it had uncovered a plot by foreign spy agencies to sow chaos in the country’s banking system via a coordinated wave of cyber attacks and fake social media reports about banks going bust.

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