Philippine central bank says foiled attempts to hack its website

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A logo of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (Central Bank of the Philippines) is seen at their main building in Manila, Philippines March 23, 2016. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco
A logo of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (Central Bank of the Philippines) is seen at their main building in Manila, Philippines March 23, 2016.

Reuters/Romeo Ranoco

The Philippine central bank has foiled attempts to hack its website, its governor said on Thursday amid a warning from global financial network SWIFT about recent multiple cyber fraud incidents targeting its system.

SWIFT’S disclosure came as law enforcement authorities in Bangladesh and elsewhere investigated the February cyber theft of $81 million from the Bangladesh central bank account at the New York Federal Reserve Bank.

“There were attempts, and I think this is a fact of life, but we have been able to turn them back,” Amando Tetangco told reporters. “Attempts are always there.”

Tetangco stressed the hacking only involved its website and that it has been updating its cyber security systems. He did not say when the hacking attempts occurred.

“We continue to update the firewalls, the security features as we move along. It is a continuing effort,” he said. “What is important is that these attempts should not be successful.”

Philippine lawmakers and investigators are looking into how $81 million hacked from the New York Fed account of Bangladesh’s central bank wound up with two casinos and a junket operator in the Philippines in one of the biggest cyber heists in history.

Bangladesh’s central bank was vulnerable to hackers because it did not have a firewall and used second-hand, $10 switches to network computers connected to the SWIFT network, an investigator said.

SWIFT, or the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, is a cooperative owned by 3,000 financial institutions.

Despite the bank heist controversy, the Philippine central bank believes the country’s banking system remains strong.

But it has directed banks and financial institutions in the Philippines to strengthen their know-your-customer practices following a separate website hacking incident involving the country’s poll body.

The hackers had posted online voters’ personal information from the poll body, raising concerns about the possibility of identity theft.

(Reporting by Karen Lema; Writing by Enrico dela Cruz; Editing by Martin Petty and Simon Cameron-Moore)