18-May (CNNMoney) — In February, computer hackers stole $101 million from Bangladesh’s central bank. In a potentially disastrous move, they gained access to SWIFT, the worldwide interbank communication network that settles transactions.
Hackers performed that attack a second time recently, on what is believed to be a commercial bank in Vietnam.
On Monday morning, those attacks were discussed in stark terms by bankers present at a special meeting of President Obama’s Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity.
They expressed frustration about the futility of fighting hackers: Large American companies spend millions of dollars defending their computer networks from data breaches and potentially destructive digital bombs. But hackers can simply target smaller, less defended banks to gain access to the global banking system.
That’s how bank robbers successfully made five transfers out of Bangladesh Bank’s account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in early February. They broke into a less-defended bank, then posed as that legitimate institution to pull money out of a bigger bank.
“The weakest link in the chain is where exposure happens. I’m deeply concerned about the fact that smaller banks could be broken into,” said MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga, who sits on the commission.
PG View: Prudent savers are moving a portion of their wealth out of that vulnerable system and putting it in physical gold.