Vietnam bank says it thwarted SWIFT messaging fraud attempt

Vietnam's Tien Phong bank (pictured) said it thwarted a cyber fraud attempt that used the SWIFT messaging system late last year.
Vietnam's Tien Phong bank (pictured) said it thwarted a cyber fraud attempt that used the SWIFT messaging system late last year. PHOTO: REUTERS

HANOI (REUTERS) - Vietnam's Tien Phong Bank (TPBank) said on Sunday (May 15) it had thwarted a cyber fraud attempt late last year, and that a third-party service it used to connect with the SWIFT global money transfers system may have been attacked by hackers.

In an e-mailed statement responding to Reuters queries, TPBank said the attack involved a suspect transaction worth more than €1 million (S$1.55 million). It said it has since stopped using the outside vendor on SWIFT's advice.

SWIFT declined to comment.

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 cyber heist of US$81 million (S$111 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 e-mailed 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.

Hanoi-based TPBank on May 11 received the "Best Internet Banking" prize from The Asian Banker.

TPBank's major shareholders include Doji, a local gold and jewellery firm, state-run Vietnam National Reinsurance Corporation and Singapore-based SBI Ven Holding Pte Ltd, a unit of Japanese financial services conglomerate SBI Holdings Inc. FPT has divested most of its shareholdings and now has a 9 per cent stake in TPBank.

After BAE systems said a Vietnamese bank had been targeted, TPBank, when contacted by Reuters on Friday, initially denied it had been subject of an attack, saying it "did not have any problems."