Hackers stole 2 billion rubles ($31.3 million) from correspondent bank accounts at Russia’s central bank, a spokeswoman at the central bank confirmed Friday, adding that the country was devising new measures to be prepared for further attacks.
“We can’t say exactly when, but we can say today it was stolen,” Ekaterina Glebova, an official in the central bank’s press office, told The Wall Street Journal.
The incident is the latest in a string of high-profile cyberattacks, including a $81 million theft in February from Bangladesh central bank’s account at the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank in New York and others in Vietnam and Ecuador. The global money transfer network Swift was caught up in that theft, because the Fed acted on fraudulent, but authenticated payment instructions sent over the network.
The money in question in the Russian hacking belongs to banking clients that hold accounts at the central bank. Ms. Glebova said that Artem Sychev, of the central bank’s department of security and information protection, referred to the theft of 2 billion rubles from correspondent accounts in a speech Friday. Reuters earlier reported his remarks.
The spokeswoman said Mr. Sychev said that the hackers attempted to steal 5 billion rubles and that the central bank was able to recover some of the money. She said the central bank’s security team had collected information about the attacks and contacted police and security forces.
Russia’s central bank also has sent special recommendations to the country’s banks, talked with ministers and institutions directly and taken steps to prepare for additional attacks on the nation’s financial system, she said.
“We have to be ready,” said Ms. Glebova, adding that Russia’s Federal Security Service told the central bank it had to be prepared for any additional cyberattacks.
Correspondent banking relationships allow money to move domestically or across borders between senders and recipients using different banks and account types and multiple currencies. By exchanging messages, sometimes between multiple affiliates, instructions can be sent to debit money from one customer, whose bank account may be in Russia, to credit a beneficiary in Brazil, for example.
The theft comes as the International Monetary Fund has been warning that emerging-market economies are increasingly at risk of financial shocks because of breakdowns in correspondent banking relationships.