According to reports out of an FBI official stationed in the Philippines, the theft of $81 million in funds hacked out of the Bangladesh central bank’s account at the NY Fed was a “state-sponsored” job.
Lamont Siller, the legal attache at the U.S. embassy, offered no further explanation of his remarks — but they have been taken to indicate that U.S. authorities are zeroing in on those who were behind one of the world’s larger and more successful cyberheists.
“We all know the Bangladesh Bank heist, this is just one example of a state-sponsored attack that was done on the banking sector,” Siller told a cybersecurity forum.
An anonymous official speaking to Reuters noted that the FBI’s current theory is that North Korea was responsible for the heist. The official did not give details.
According to Wall Street Journal reports, the case being build by U.S. prosecutors both accuses North Korea of directing the heist and Chinese middlemen for being critical to carrying it out.
The February 2016 heist saw hackers breach Bangladesh Bank’s systems and then use the SWIFT messaging network to order the transfer of $1 billion from its account at the New York Fed.
The U.S. central bank mostly rejected those attempts, but $81 million got free and found its way into accounts in the Philippines. The money quickly disappeared in the huge casino industry in the country. One casino owner testified before the Senate.
The Chinese casino owner in the Philippines told a senate inquiry that two Chinese high-rollers had run millions through his establishment in February. He said the two men were responsible for transferring the stolen money from Dhaka to Manila.
As of yet, no arrests have been made in the case.
Siller said the FBI was working closely with the Philippines government “to ensure those responsible for the attack do not go unpunished.”
“So for us in the FBI, it is never over. We are going to bring these individuals to justice so that we can show others that you may be be able to muster such attacks, even state-sponsored, but you will not get away with it in the end.”