Security Investments Consume SWIFT’s Profits

Increased Spending Follows Bangladesh Bank Heist, Ongoing Attacks

Banks that collectively own SWIFT saw their profits vanish last year as the organization increased its investments in information security, even as the interbank messaging service handled record volumes of money-moving messages.

The investment followed the $81 million heist from the central bank of Bangladesh in February last year, accomplished by attackers who issued fraudulent SWIFT money-moving messages from a compromised Bangladesh Bank system. News of the attack sparked a public relations disaster for the Brussels-based cooperative, formally known as the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, calling into question the integrity of its messaging service and whether the organization was doing enough to police members’ information security practices.

A newly released annual report shows that SWIFT’s 2016 profit – before taxes and rebates to its owner-customers – fell by 31 percent, to €47 million ($53 million). SWIFT operates as a cooperative, and at the organization’s discretion, profits, which totaled €33 million ($37 million) in 2015, can be distributed to members in the form of rebates or lower service prices. In 2016, however, SWIFT issued no such rebates, reflecting the organization’s increased spending on information security.

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