SWIFT Attack

The Weakest Link

Gottfried Leibbrandt, chief executive officer of the Society for Worldwide Interban (SWIFT), pauses during a session on day three of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Friday, Jan. 23, 2015. World leaders, influential executives, bankers and policy makers attend the 45th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos from Jan. 21-24. Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg
Gottfried Leibbrandt, chief executive officer of SWIFT, says the entire financial community needs to pull together to confront cyber attacks.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    SWIFT is the backbone of the financial world that allows millions of payments between banks and customers to be processed every day. Safety of the system is paramount.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or SWIFT, is based in La Hulpe, a suburb of the Belgian capital Brussels.
    • Up to 30 million messages between banks, exchanges and company clients pass through SWIFT every single day.
    • The robbery in March of $81 million from the central bank of Bangladesh – through a cyber attack on the SWIFT system – has sent shock waves through the entire industry.
  • Audio

    Audio

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The traces of a recent wave of cyber bank robberies run from Dhaka to New York to Kiev. But they all cross at a tiny suburb of the Belgian capital city, Brussels.

La Hulpe is where you will find the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or SWIFT. It’s an organization that sits at the very epicenter of the global financial system – a system that over the last few months has been increasingly under attack.

SWIFT could be considered the backbone of the entire financial industry. If you transfer money from your bank account to somebody else, the transaction will almost certainly run through SWIFT. Up to 30 million messages between financial firms and clients pass through on any given day.

Gottfried Leibbrandt, the chief executive of SWIFT, is a man who would prefer to stay out of the limelight. He rarely speaks to journalists. When contacted by Handelsblatt, he preferred to take questions and give answers in writing.

That doesn’t mean he’s any less aware of what’s at stake.

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