SWIFT Bans Three North Korean Banks from Global Banking System

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) has banned three North Korean banks from using its global financial messaging service, which connects many of the world’s financial institutions. The affected banks include the Bank of East Land, Korea Daesong Bank, and Korea Kwangson Banking Corp. SWIFT, which is located in Belgium, instituted the ban after Belgian authorities said they would no longer provide the “necessary authorizations” for it to continue to offer its services to North Korean banks under United Nations (UN) sanctions. This move by SWIFT is the latest effort to cut North Korea off from the international financial system, which, according to the U.S. Treasury Department, the country has used to transfer money to fund illicit purposes, like its nuclear weapons program. For example, many researchers have linked North Korean actors to the cyber-attack disclosed in February 2016 against the Bangladesh Central Bank, in which attackers compromised the bank’s systems and used the SWIFT network to steal $81 million USD. Investigators are examining possible similar breaches at as many as 30 other banks around the world, which largely remain unattributed. 
 
Over the past few months, tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program have reached seemingly unprecedented heights. The U.S. is calling on the country to cease its nuclear weapons development, North Korea is threatening the use its alleged nuclear weapons against the U.S. and South Korea, and China is trying to balance its alliance with North Korea and preventing a war on the Korean peninsula. Moreover, recent heated rhetoric between North Korean president Kim Jong-Un and U.S. president Donald Trump, as well as increased U.S. military operations off the coast of the peninsula, has further increased tensions and destabilized the region. Based on comments from North Korean officials, the country appears determined to develop a nuclear bomb, while statements from U.S. officials increasingly hint at the possibility of preemptive action to prevent the country from becoming a nuclear power. These developments, combined with alleged North Korea cyber-attacks against the global financial system, have prompted many public and private sector entities in the United States and across the Asia-Pacific region to prepare for potential physical and cyber consequences of conflict with or increased aggression by North Korea. Despite its limited Internet infrastructure, North Korean threat actors have carried out sophisticated, targeted, and destructive cyber-attacks, and have demonstrated their willingness to target private sector entities in the United States and South Korea.
 
By - Hussainali Ladha
TCS Enterprise Security and Risk Management
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