Hackers steal $15.4 million from Mexican banks

Although Mexico does not use SWIFT, which was earlier compromised by hackers, the cyber punks were able to exploit vulnerabilities in its SPEI system and transfer funds to fake accounts which were emptied by their accomplices.

According to two sources close to the investigation at hand, hackers have managed to siphon off hundreds of millions of pesos out of Mexican banks, including Banorte, by creating fake orders which moved pesos, ranging from ten of thousands to hundreds of thousands, to bogus accounts which were emptied by accomplices who withdrew the cash in dozens of banks.

As per a source, the amount in question is around $15.4 million (300 million pesos).

El Financiero, a Mexican news daily, reported, citing an anonymous source, that nearly 400 million pesos had been stolen in the heist.

As per two sources, attempts to withdraw some of the fraudulent transfers have been stopped.

According to Alejandro Diaz de Leon, the Governor of Mexico’s central bank, the attack on Mexico’s payment system was unprecedented and that he hoped that measures being taken would stop future incidents.

“There’s no evidence that would allow us to say with certainty that this is over,” said Diaz de Leon. “We’re taking corrective and mitigating action.”

While declining to name or confirm the names of the bank which were hit, Diaz de Leon said the central bank is still investigating the incident.

In a radio interview, Lorenza Martinez, the head of Banxico’s payment system, said 5 institutions saw “unauthorized transfers” and that the the evidence, so far, is pointing to a cyber attack.

Inter-bank transfers slowed in later April, feeding worries that Latin America’s second biggest economy could be the latest victim in a wave of global cyber attacks.

As per a source, hackers may have received help from people inside the branches of the banks since such large withdrawals of cash are highly uncommon.

“In terms of the security of the bank’s offices, I think that is part of the analysis that each bank is doing,” said Martinez.

He went on to add, the central bank’s SPEI interbank transfer system was not compromised by the cyber attack but the glitch was most probably located in the software developed by institutions or third-party providers to connect to the payment system.

Many banks in Mexico have migrated to alternative, legacy technology to connect to the payment system, said Martinez.

Mexico’s SPEI system is a domestic network similar to the SWIFT global messaging system that moves trillions of dollars each day. Earlier, hackers have been able to exploit vulnerabilities in SWIFT to attack banks across the globe.

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