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SWIFT asks its customers to help it end a string of high-profile banking frauds

Peter Sayer | May 23, 2016
The company has promised an update to its security guidelines soon, following criticism of outdated practices.

Knowledge base entries show that SWIFT has updated its Alliance Access software several times in recent months. One of the tips warns that, while keeping the software up to date is important, it is not sufficient in itself. "While the software update provides additional integrity verification and alerting capabilities for this particular modus operandi on your interface to the SWIFT network, it will not help you protect against all malwares or your internal credentials being compromised," SWIFT wrote in another recent letter to customers, entitled "Security Issues."

One of the tips warns that, while keeping the software up to date is important, it is not sufficient in itself. "While the software update provides additional integrity verification and alerting capabilities for this particular modus operandi on your interface to the SWIFT network, it will not help you protect against all malwares or your internal credentials being compromised," SWIFT wrote in another recent letter to customers, entitled "Security Issues."

SWIFT also offers more general security guidance to its customers and says it intends to update this shortly, reinforcing its recommendations for securing access to the network.

The current security guidance is sorely in need of an update, according to Doug Gourlay, corporate vice president of security software vendor Skyport Systems. He reviewed the guidance document issued on March 18 (SWIFT updated it on April 29 to reflect changes in Alliance Access 7.1.15) and found it wanting.

"The document is a fairly comprehensive approach to securing SWIFT against the types of attacks that were prevalent a decade ago," Gourlay wrote in a May 13 blog post. But times have changed, he said, and "their model does not seem to have adapted to the threat landscape we are facing today."

Gourlay advised that SWIFT should make five changes in its security guidance.

Among his recommendations, he suggested limiting the attack surface by only allowing access to the Alliance web platform from secure administrative workstations. Better yet, he suggested, use virtual workstations, rebuilding them after each administrative session to eliminate malware such as keyloggers.

He expressed shock that SWIFT recommended accessing the Web platform using Internet Explorer, the last version of which was released in 2013, or Firefox, but made no mention of either Chrome or Microsoft Edge, the browser included with Windows 10. "I will drop the mic here and avoid any further recommendations regarding the browser choices ... you all know better (I hope)," he wrote.

 

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