USA government 'hacked Swift global bank system'

Cris Thomas, a security researcher with Tenable, said analysis of the leaked files suggested the United States government had the capability "to monitor, if not disrupt, financial transactions to terrorists groups".

The release also contains the software for "Oddjob", an implant tool and backdoor for controlling hacked computers through an HTTP-based command server.

However, the BBC reported on Friday that EastNets denied claims its service had been compromised.

But the contents of the leak appeared to suggest otherwise.

It is not clear how much of the SWIFT network the NSA compromised, but the agency did not manage to break into EasyNet partner Business Computer Group in Latin America.

SWIFT is an global messaging network used by 10,000 banks in 212 countries to send information about financial transactions, including money transfers.

Susan Hennessey, an editor at Lawfare and former NSA attorney, wrote on Twitter that the leak will cause "immense harm to both USA intel interests and public security simultaneously".

It turns out that the hacking tools released by Shadow Brokers were all several years old, and Microsoft states that not just Windows 10 has been patched, but all versions of the operating system that are now supported. The vulnerable Windows versions ran more than 65 percent of desktop computers surfing the web last month, according to estimates from the tracking firm Net Market Share.

Releasing this information ahead of a holiday weekend may make it harder for Microsoft and IT workers to respond, as anyone with bad intentions now has access to a number of previously unknown exploits. Ordinarily, a hostile intelligence service wouldn't tip their hand by showing that they had obtained this information but there are some clear strategic benefits to that kind of signalling. "Understandingly, customers have expressed concerns around the risk this disclosure potentially creates". Microsoft maintains that the vast majority of these exploits have already been patched.

Swift was successfully targeted by hackers past year when criminals stole $81m from the Bangladeshi central bank.

That cyberattack was likely the work of the North Korean government, according to the Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab ZAO.

The SWIFT messaging system, which is headquartered in Belgium, is used by banks to transfer trillions of dollars each day. The release was accompanied by the message "Don't forget your base".

The authenticity of Friday's document dump could not immediately be determined but the group's previous releases have been corroborated by material leaked by former USA intelligence contractor Edward Snowden and software patches issued by major US technology firms. SWIFT stated that there was no indication that their main network had been accessed by unauthorized users.

The hacking tools Shadow Brokers dumped online revealed techniques to breach both Windows systems and certain financial networks.

TheShadowBrokers hacking group has released a new batch of documents purportedly taken from the National Security Agency, which suggests that American spies have burrowed deep into the Middle East's financial network.

  • Carolyn Briggs