Maltese Bank Goes Offline to Prevent Hackers From Stealing €13 Million

By Bill Toulas / February 14, 2019

According to the Times of Malta, the Bank of Valletta has detected a hackers’ intrusion yesterday and pulled the plug from all their systems to prevent any compromise of their funds. As reported, the hackers tried to move 13 million in Euros across banks located in the UK, Czech, Hong Kong, and the US. To stop this from happening, all of the bank’s services including web-banking, email services, ATMs, and even the website were taken offline. As a result, the attack was successfully inhibited, and no funds were compromised after all.

Not all services have been restored yet, as the bank doesn’t intend to risk it before 100% safety is assured. This means that the largest financial institution in one of the most active markets in the E.U. is now down, not allowing payment processing or transactions through “point-of-sale” terminals. The following reassuring tweet was also published by the bank’s handle yesterday:

As clarified by Malta’s Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, the funds were actually transferred but could be traced and reversed within 30 minutes. He went on to highlight the bank’s robustness and readiness to respond to threats like this one and assured that the 12000 people who are to receive their social security payments tomorrow will get them through cheques if necessary.

The shop owners are in a direr position however, as POS systems are down and they can’t receive electronic or card payments. Calling the Bank of Valletta didn’t help them in getting informed about when the payment system will be back online, as the bank’s communication systems are down as well. Big shops like supermarkets are the most adversely affected right now, as the situation in their cash registers is starting to take a chaotic stretch. The APS Bank of Malta has also announced that they decided to suspend parts of its services including ATMs, as well as all transactions and payments between their network and the Bank of Valletta. This is a precautionary measure that causes a further disturbance in the small country’s operations.

Bank heists like the one attempted against the Bank of Valletta are not extraordinary really, as banks are expected to have the people’s money online and available for transactions to take place at any given moment, while at the same time they have to secure them from hackers. This balance is a tricky one to achieve, and attackers know it very well. Last year, we reported on a similar scheme that hit the Cosmos Bank in India, as well as how APT38 has stolen about $100 million over the last five years.

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