13 Jun 2011

IMF hack exposes many nations to risk

The computer system of the International Monetary Fund has been attacked, though the extent of the intrusion and the identity of the perpetrators remain matters of conjecture.

In the past year, private corporations such as Sony and government institutions including U.S. embassies have been targeted by hacker collectives WikiLeaks, LulzSec and others. Now an NGO with global reach and influence has been compromised.

Tom Kellerman, board member of the International Cyber Security Protection Alliance, described the hack as a “targeted attack” meant to give the intruder a “digital insider presence” at the IMF. Comments from senior IMF officials to various news organizations indicate it was a serious attack.

Many are postulating that a nation-state rather than an independent hacker group is responsible. Ovum security analyst Graham Titherington told the BBC that the sophistication of the attack, coupled with the value of IMF information to a country looking to base investment on confidential information about foreign government finances, point to a nation-state culprit.

Though the IMF breach occurred months ago, news of it broke after a week that saw a NATO conference on computer attacks and a European Commission announcement of an EU-wide cyber security team. The urgency of developing a multinational strategy to defend against computer attacks is likely to be even greater now, considering that 187 member nations have potentially been directly affected by the IMF hack.