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Cybercriminals reportedly hacked into the electronic fund transfer system of a major private sector bank in Nepal, prompting the country's central bank to issue an alert, officials said on Tuesday.
According to the officials of the Nepal Rastra Bank, the country's central bank, hackers tried to make illegal payment worth millions of rupees from the bank accounts of NIC Asia Bank Ltd using the SWIFT electronic money transfer system.
The NRB, they said, has asked foreign central banks not to make any payments sought.
"It has been found that transactions of NIC Asia Bank have been carried out from various banks in six countries by hackers using SWIFT, an international banking network," said Rajendra Pandit, deputy spokesperson of the NRB.
"We have already requested the central banks in those countries to stop processing payments to the parties requested by the hackers. Even payments which have already been made are likely to be retrieved," Pandit said.
The hackers reportedly broke into the SWIFT system of the NIC Asia Bank and siphoned off an undisclosed amount last week during the Diwali holidays.
Both the NRB as well as the NIC Asia bank have played down the cyber heist.
"We have decided to take down our server for the SWIFT system after suspecting an intrusion into the system, which is completely different from our core banking system where client information and bank balances are maintained," said Roshan Kumar Neupane, an official at the NIC Asia Bank.
He said the attacks have been on the 'Nostro' accounts maintained in foreign banks for payments in business activities like letters of credit (LC).
"The financial losses have not been as damaging as feared as the balances in such accounts are very low," said Neupane, but did not disclose the amount that was siphoned off.
The NIC Asia Bank Ltd has also commissioned a forensic investigation by KPMG, a global firm providing audit, tax and advisory services, according to the officials.
The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) is a global financial messaging system that thousands of banks and commercial organisations across the world use to transfer billions of dollars every day.