Vietnam Bank Reports Thwarted SWIFT Messaging Fraud Attempt

HANOI (Reuters) -
A man rides a motorcycle past the Vietnamese commercial Tien Phong bank in Hanoi May 13, 2016. REUTERS/Kham
A man rides a motorcycle past the Vietnamese commercial Tien Phong Bank in Hanoi, Friday. (Reuters/Kham)

Vietnam’s Tien Phong Bank (TPBank) said on Sunday it had thwarting a cyberfraud attempt late last year, and a third-party service it used to connect with the SWIFT global money transfers system may have been attacked by hackers.

In an emailed statement responding to Reuters queries, TPBank said the attack involved a suspect transaction worth more than 1 million euros ($1.13 million). On SWIFT’s advice, the bank said it has since stopped using that outside vendor .

SWIFT declined to comment.

Cybersecurity firm BAE Systems last week said malware was used to target a Vietnamese commercial bank using fraudulent messages on the SWIFT network. The malware operated in a similar way to that used by hackers in the cyberheist of $81 million from the Bangladesh Central Bank in February.

BAE did not name the Vietnamese bank, but SWIFT, the Brussels-based global financial messaging network, disclosed last Thursday that malware targeting a commercial bank had been discovered.

“Via a risk warning and oversight system and a tight internal control process, TPBank has identified a suspicious transaction worth more than a million euros transferred by invalid SWIFT messages that was not executed by the bank itself,” TPBank said in the emailed statement.

“This attack … did not cause any losses and had no impact on the SWIFT system in particular and the transaction system between the bank and customers in general,” it said.

The bank said the servers of the third-party vendor were based overseas, but did not say where. It said the vendor had used a software application that SWIFT had told the bank may have been subject to the malware assault.

TPBank, founded in 2008 by Vietnam’s top technology firm FPT Corp, is considered one of Vietnam’s most modern and technologically savvy banks. FPT has since divested most of its shareholdings and now has only a 9 percent stake in TPBank.

TPBank’s current major shareholders include Doji, a local gold and jewelry firm, the state-run Vietnam National Reinsurance Corporation and Singapore-based SBI Ven Holding Pte Ltd., a unit of Japanese financial services conglomerate SBI Holdings Inc.

After BAE systems said a Vietnamese bank had been targeted, TPBank initially denied it had been subject of an attack, telling Reuters on Friday that it “did not have any problems.”