Banks beef up security to fend off hackers | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 10, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:41 AM, September 10, 2020

Banks beef up security to fend off hackers

Banks have beefed up security, vigilance and monitoring to prevent hackers from stealing money after the central bank and the government alerted them about the fraudulent activities of a North Korean group.

Almost all banks have recently started keeping the service of automated teller machines (ATMs) and point of sales (POS) suspended from 12:00am to 7:00am after they were alerted that a North Korean hacker group named "Beagle Boys" is trying to steal money from banks around the world through ATM booths and fake transactions.

"We are centrally monitoring the activities of the ATMs. We have alerted our security guards manning the ATMs," said Syed Mahbubur Rahman, managing director of Mutual Trust Bank.

Mutual Trust Bank is keeping its more than 350 ATMs shut during the eight-hour-period.

Emranul Huq, managing director of Dhaka Bank, said the private commercial bank was keeping only seven ATMs – six in Dhaka and one in Chattogram – operational from mid-night to the morning out of a total of 62.

"We have beefed up both technological and physical vigilance. We have intensified monitoring."

Dhaka Bank switches off the operation of the Swift network, which facilitates transfers of funds, at night.

"We have been doing this since August 28," Huq said.

Prime Bank has kept the service of its ATM booths suspended at night since Tuesday, said Rahel Ahmed, managing director of the bank. "This is a temporary measure."

Bangladesh Computer Council (BCC) got the alert from the US and European computer incident response teams (CIRTs) on August 26 and it alerted Bangladesh Bank, banks and Financial Institutions Division of the finance ministry the next morning.

"Based on that, all banks have taken precautions," said Tarique Barkatullah, project director of the e-CIRT.

"The threat has been minimised. Clients of banks should not panic. Local banks are safe and none lost any money."

He said the alert level has been brought down to amber from red. "We are free from the threat of the malware."

North Korean hackers are tapping into banks around the globe to make fraudulent money transfers and cause ATMs to spit out cash, the US government warned on August 26, according to Reuters.

Md Abdul Halim Chowdhury, managing director of Pubali Bank, said the private bank took precautionary measures and put in place a strong firewall to prevent unauthorised access.

Rahman of Mutual Trust Bank, however, said keeping ATMs and other services shut at night was not a solution.

"Rather, we need to enhance security and put in place the firewall. Physical vigilance is also important."

The number of ATM booths has increased steadily over the years, rising to 11,100 in July.

Transactions are also increasing as people are depending more on electronic transactions instead of visiting bank branches.

Transactions at ATMs rose 27 per cent year-on-year to Tk 17,340 crore in July, BB data showed.

Hackers stole $101 million from the BB's account with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in February 2016. Of the sum, $81 million ended up in the Philippines and $20 million in Sri Lanka. 

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