Latest cyber attack targets IMF

A hacker works on a computer with a skull on it, which symbolizes online crime and Internet theft.

UPDATED REPORT

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: Indonesia is the latest country -- and the first big developing economy -- to throw its weight behind French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde to lead the International Monetary Fund. We've been tracking for weeks now the importance of that position to the global economy. But today the IMF is also trying to secure its huge database after a report that it was hacked.

From London, here's Marketplace's Stephen Beard.


STEPHEN BEARD: The IMF has confirmed that earlier this year it detected suspicious file transfers on one of its computers. Cyber security experts are saying this was malware at work. Hackers had apparently planted software inside the IMF system for the purpose of stealing information. As the world's largest financial organization and lender of last resort, the IMF has plenty of valuable data.

Peter Summer is a professor at the London School of Economics.

PETER SUMMER: They have a huge amount of information about economies that are failing and that is of great value to the financial institutions of the world, but also to nation states who want to know what they're in for.

A country seeking a bailout for example might want to know in advance what the conditions will be. Security experts say a nation state is most likely to be behind the cyber attack. But proving which country was involved would be difficult.

In London I'm Stephen Beard for Marketplace.


ORIGINAL INTERVIEW

JEREMY HOBSON: Sometimes, it seems like all the stories in the business world are colliding with each other. And this is one of those times. We've reported on the ongoing race to lead the International Monetary Fund. And we've reported on the spike in cyber attacks and hacking. Well now it appears the IMF has been hacked.

Marketplace's Stephen Beard joins us live from London with the details. Stephen -- what do we know about this attack?

STEPHEN BEARD: We know from a leaked internal memo that earlier this year the IMF found what it calls "suspicious file transfers" on one of its computers. Cyber security experts are saying it was an attempt to install malware, you know software designed to relay information back out to the hackers. This is being taken seriously though. The FBI is investigating.

HOBSON: And why would anyone want to hack into the IMF?

BEARD: Well, it's the old Willie Sutton question I suppose -- why rob banks? Because that's where the money is. The IMF is where a lot of potentially valuable information is.

Here's Peter Summer of the London School of Economics.

PETER SUMMER: They have a huge amount of information about economies that are failing and that is of great value to financial institutions of the world, but also to nation states who want to know what they're in for.

A country that's about to be bailed out for example might want to know in advance what the conditions will be. But there's any number of uses to which sensitive IMF information could be put in the bond market for example. And of course the IMF isn't the only financial institution to be hacked into. The finance ministries of Britain, Canada and France have all recently come under cyber attack too.

HOBSON: Time to change the password. Marketplace's Stephen Beard, thanks.

BEARD: OK Jeremy.

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...