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October 30, 2018

SBP tasks banks to ensure safety after cyber heist


October 30, 2018

KARACHI: The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) on Sunday asked commercial banks to ensure safety of their payment cards from security breach after fraudulent overseas transactions, using BankIslami’s debit cards, were unearthed over the weekend.

While BankIslami claimed that all monies – Rs2.6 million (approximately $19,500) withdrawn from the bank accounts, using its cards, have been credited to the accounts of customers, an international payment scheme put the transactions at around six million dollars.

BankIslami said it detected certain abnormal transactions valuing Rs2.6 million on one of its international payment card schemes on Saturday. “The bank immediately took precautionary steps, which, inter alia, included shutting its international payment scheme,” the bank said in a bourse filing.

“After the bank was cut off from the international payment scheme, the bank was advised by the international payment scheme that some transactions were made on international ATM’s (auto-teller machine) allegedly using bank’s issued cards.”

BankIslami said it didn’t receive any other details as to how such transactions were processed and validated “when such transactions never landed on bank’s system”. “These transactions, of approximately $6 million as claimed by international payment scheme, are not acknowledged by the bank as the bank was actually logged off from the international payment scheme at that time,” it said.

“All domestic ATM cash withdrawal transactions using bank’s biometric service has been restored on the same day. However, as a precautionary measure, all transactions routing through international payment scheme will be shortly restored once the bank is confident that all risks of unauthorised transactions have been mitigated.” The bank’s spokesperson was not available for the comments on which international payment scheme was possibly compromised. Authorities didn’t not mention who was behind the latest security breach.

A banker told The News that the central bank convened an emergent meeting with the banks’ chief technology officers and heads to discuss cyber attack at BankIslami. “The SBP asked all the financial institutions to be extra careful against the cyber crime,” the banker said, requesting anonymity. Banking experts said sophistication in cyber attacks is increasing.

Earlier this year, five Chinese were rounded up in ATM skimming fraud. “The fear of digital heists is increasing as hackers use enhanced sophisticated tools to make attacks on the banks’ computers,” another banker said.

“There are some flaws in banks’ cyber-security architecture. Banks must adopt best global practices and enhance real time monitoring to tackle cyber-security threats.”

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