Recently, hacking gangs KillNet, Anonymous Sudan, and REvil threatened to destabilise International Monetary Systems by threatening to attack SWIFT within 48 hours. Financial institutions were on high alert, especially since some of these gangs were notorious for their powerful distributed denial-of-service (DDOS) attacks. The most important aspect to be noted is that these were part of the wider anonymous hacktivist movement, self-styled vigilante hackers that are known for political posturing and inflicting politically motivated hacking attacks in the recent past against Europe.
In the wake of all this, let us understand what hacktivism is and the impact of these self-styled vigilantes on the financial systems.
Derived from the words hack and activism, hacktivism is a type of activism that involves the act of hacking to bring attention to a cause or to protest an issue, often for politically motivated purposes. Hacktivism is often, but not always, directed at government or corporate targets that are seen as oppressive. It may include data theft, distributed DDOS attacks, website defacement or the use of social media to spread awareness about a cause.
This article focuses on the dangers posed by hacktivism in the wake of recent announcements and events, the hacking methodology used by them, how it will continue to play a prominent role across the cyber threat landscape, how international banking systems, particularly reliant on SWIFT for cross border transactions can mitigate the devastating effects of hacktivism.
In this article, we will also try to analyse past hacktivism events, which shall serve as high-calibre teaching tools so that we may upgrade our security strategy.
SWIFT, which stands for Society for World Wide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, is a messaging system that enables banks to transact with each other internationally. The Society for World Wide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) facilitates financial transactions and payments between certain banks worldwide. Its principal function is to serve as the main messaging network through which international payments are initiated. It also sells software and services to financial institutions, mostly for use on its proprietary SWIFTNet and assigns ISO 9363 Business Identifier Codes (BIC Codes), popularly known as SWIFT codes.
The SWIFT messaging network is a component of the global payments system. SWIFT merely acts as a carrier of the ‘messages containing the payment instructions between financial institutions involved in a transaction'.
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