KATHMANDU, Oct 24: Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) and NIC Asia Bank Ltd have stepped up efforts to prevent possible losses from a recent cyberattack against NIC Asia using the SWIFT electronic money transfer system.
Officials of NRB said the central bank has already sought the help of banks in countries from where transfers have been requested by hackers. NRB has asked foreign central banks not to make any payments sought. SWIFT is an international payments network.
“It has been found that transactions of NIC Asia Bank have been carried out from various banks in six countries by hackers using SWIFT,” said Rajendra Pandit, deputy spokesperson of NRB. “We have already requested the central banks in those countries to stop processing payments to the parties requested by the hackers. Even payments which have already been made are likely to be retrieved,” he added.
Unknown hackers reportedly broke into the SWIFT system at NIC Asia Bank and siphoned off an undisclosed amount last week during the Tihar holidays.
However, both NRB and NIC Asia Bank have remained tight-lipped over the magnitude of the cyber theft or the modus operandi of the hackers.
Instead, both NRB and NIC have played down the cyber heist. “We have decided to take down our server for the SWIFT system after suspecting an intrusion into the system, which is completely different from our core banking system where client information and bank balances are maintained,” Roshan Kumar Neupane, an assistant chief executive officer at NIC Asia Bank, told Republica.
“The attacks have been on the Nostro accounts maintained in foreign banks for payments in business activities like letters of credit (LC). The financial losses have not been as damaging as feared as the balances in such accounts are very low,” said Neupane. He did not delve into the amount that the hackers have siphoned off.
NIC Asia Bank Ltd has also commissioned a forensic investigation by KPMG, a global firm providing audit, tax and advisory services, according to officials at NIC.
“We can have a clearer picture in the next three days and we expect a full report from KPMG within a week,” said NIC assistant CEO Neupane.