Security experts: Government may be behind major IMF cyber attack

Last week’s cyber attack on the Washington D.C.-based International Monetary Fund’s computer system was devised by a foreign government, an unnamed security expert tells Bloomberg.

The expert didn’t say which country is thought to be behind the attack, but their cryptic reveal falls in line with what other security professionals are saying about it. The attack follows a string of recent high-profile security intrusions, including a breach in defense contractor Lockheed Martin’s system weeks ago, a Chinese-based phishing attack on Gmail users, and April’s attack on Sony’s PlayStation Network.

David Hawley, an IMF spokesman, confirmed that an attack took place, saying that the organization is “investigating it and the fund is completely functional.”

The IMF houses sensitive data as part of its aim to stabilize international exchange rates and help balance international trade. The organization isn’t saying what exactly was compromised in the attack, but Bloomberg’s security source says that it resulted in a “large quantity” of documents and e-mails being leaked. The attack apparently originated from within the organization via a deliberately infected PC, the BBC reports.

Given the targeted and complicated nature of the cyber attack, other security experts like Tom Kellerman, a former IMF employee, also think that it was likely the work of a foreign government. Kellerman said that the country behind the attack was trying to get a “digital insider presence” within the IMF.

For other organizations and governments, the question remains how to best protect against similar security breaches? Some experts say the only choice now is for public and private sectors to unite, reports Reuters. “We are not doing enough … every year we hope things will change but now people like me have turned cynical. It requires co-operation on a global scale,” Indian security expert Vijay Mukhi told the news agency.

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