There is little doubt that the Bangladesh Bank (BB) reserve heist four years ago has been the biggest cybercrime in Bangladesh’s financial sector, one that is shrouded in mystery, as till now we do not know who the actors involved were. The probe report, headed by the former BB governor, was submitted in May 2017 but the government is yet to make it public. Why are we in the dark about something that is of national significance, considering that we are talking about a billion dollars being stolen from our central bank?
Of course, the fact that the probe managed to reveal the people and organisations whose actions allowed the hacking is a positive step, as is the set of 70 recommendations to prevent such catastrophic heists. A report in this daily has revealed the sophisticated and complex process through which such a huge amount of money was siphoned away under the noses of the BB officials. According to the report, the central bank, the SWIFT network and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York must all share responsibility for the reserve heist. In addition, the Rizal Bank of the Philippines did not act responsibly when it implemented the fund transfer despite receiving “stop payment” requests from Bangladesh Bank.
The probe report has also found that North Korean hackers were the main executors of the heist, although the actual masterminds of the crime are still to be exposed. What the investigation has proved without a doubt is the acute vulnerability of our banks, especially Bangladesh Bank, to such cyber-attacks that can have crippling effects on our financial sector. There are, therefore, crucial lessons to be learnt from this devastating crime. There is little doubt that Bangladesh Bank needs to tighten its belt and be far more efficient and updated in ensuring its cyber security. This will mean greater transparency, thorough oversight and rigorous crosschecking during fund transfers. It is also important that the persons, whether they are BB officials or foreigners, involved in this crime be identified and punished under the law. Bangladesh Bank should seriously try to implement the recommendations of the probe report in order to secure itself for the future so that loopholes like weekend transfers and the carelessness of foreign institutions will not have such huge consequences.