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Hackers Stole Millions of Dollars From Mexican Banks by Creating Phantom Orders, Wiring Funds to Fake Accounts

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The attacks were carried out in April and May.
Redacción.- Hackers stole hundreds of millions of pesos out of Mexican banks, including Mexico’s second largest bank, Banorte, by creating phantom orders that wired funds to fake accounts and promptly withdrew the money, sources close to a government investigation said. The hackers sent hundreds of false orders ranging from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of pesos from Mexican banks to fake bank accounts in other banks, with one source pegging the total stolen at 300 million pesos or around $15.4 million and other sources suggesting the total stolen is more than that. 

Lorenza Martinez, director general of the corporate payments and services system at Mexico’s central bank’s Interbank Electronic Payments System, said that five institutions saw “unauthorized transfers.” 

The attacks were carried out in April and May.

Mexico's Central Bank Says No Client Money Lost, But Activates Contingency Plans.

Mexico's central bank says "operational incidents" last week appear to have been the work of hackers attempting to mess with banks' real-time payment transfers. While an investigation continues into the incidents, the central bank says it's instructed the three banks to use contingency plans, including alternate connection arrangements, and warned that the banks' payment transfers might slow as a result.

On Friday, Banco de México, or Banxico, issued an alert, reporting that there were security incidents at three of the country's banks that participate in the central bank's domestic interbank electronic payments system, known as SPEI.

The central bank says that the SPEI infrastructure was not breached and "continues to operate normally and safely" and that the attempts to defraud the three banks appear to have been unsuccessful.

"To date, the SPEI infrastructure at Banco de México has not been affected, and there are no indications of effects on the resources of the clients of any of the institutions that participate in SPEI," it says.

To be safe, however, the central bank says that it's activated "contingency measures" for the three targeted banks and moved them to alternate connections. It warned that these emergency measures could result in customers of those banks seeing a slowdown in its real-time payment system, which normally clears transactions in just 1.9 seconds.

"It is possible that the clients of the [three banks will] experience slowness in the sending of their transactions, as well as in the receipt of resources from other financial institutions (possibly of a few hours) and delays in the queries of the electronic certificates of payment," it said.

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