Friday, January 3, 2020
A Dec. 31, 2019 malware attack on Travelex reflects a new wave of advanced, automated attacks against financial infrastructure, experts warned shortly after the intrusion was disclosed. First reported by the Wall Street Journal and TechCrunch, the attack that forced the retail foreign exchange service to close its mobile app and worldwide network was initiated by a computer-borne virus.
In a Jan. 2, 2020 TechCrunch article, Zach Whittaker reported the global outage is disrupting financial institutions, such as Tesco Bank, that rely on Travelex services. The article, “Travelex suspends services after malware attack,” indicated the Travelex corporate site is offline while the company makes “upgrades.” The company posted notices on its Twitter accounts indicating that staff are “unable to perform transactions on the website or through the app,” he wrote. Wall Street Journal reporter Anna Isaac noted the network-wide Travelex outage is affecting its global fleet of ATMs. Her Jan. 2, article, “Travelex Currency-Exchange Network Shut Down by Virus Attack,” reported Travelex “has over 1,200 locations, operates more than 1,000 ATMs and completed 800,000 mobile and online transactions in 2017, according to the company. It operates in 70 countries and performs cross-border financial transfers for financial institutions as well as consumers. Travelex’s full-year 2018 group revenue was £826 million ($1 billion).”
Colin Bastable, CEO of security awareness and training firm Lucy Security, has seen cybercrime escalate year-over-year during the holiday season, a period he described as ideal for phishing and other socially engineered attacks.
“People are distracted, businesses are short-staffed and it is relatively easy to deliver a malware payload in a New Year-themed phishing email, or a fake year-end bonus email,” Bastable said. “Travelex makes for a juicy target – it is somewhat surprising that they were breached, but at any given time, up to 30 percent of employees can easily fall for phishing attacks, which are responsible for over 90 percent of losses from cybersecurity breaches.”
Mark Gazit, CEO of ThetaRay, an AI-based analytics provider, has seen a resurgence in trade-based money laundering. This avenue has largely escaped notice, he said, because investigators have focused on other forms of financial cybercrime. These types of attacks are easy to implement and simple to keep shielded from financial detection and may continue to scale as trade moves online, he stated.
“In 2019, regulatory enforcement increased – not only for financial institutions but for their executives,” Gazit said. “We've seen firings, arrests, and even the suicide of Danske Bank Estonia's former CEO. This trend will continue in 2020, with governments finding executives liable for human trafficking, terror funding and other crimes whose proceeds are laundered through the financial system. Institutions will become more cautious about potential money laundering not just because of regulation and compliance, but because they will be under greater public scrutiny for their perceived role in these crimes.”
Gazit further noted that 2020 may usher in new IoT-based attack vectors in response as big-data payment mechanisms such as Google checking, Apple digital wallets and Facebook cryptocurrency schemes. “These technologies will provide opportunities for a new type of cybercriminal who utilizes next generation payment providers to hack into accounts and not only access customer data, but steal money as well,” he said.
The Green Sheet Inc. is now a proud affiliate of Bankcard Life, a premier community that provides industry-leading training and resources for payment professionals. Click here for more information.
Notice to readers: These are archived articles. Contact names or information may be out of date. We regret any inconvenience.