What Do IMF, Citigroup, And Sony Hacks Share?

Author: Mathew Schwartz

Many organizations have been focusing on complying with regulations, rather than taking a top-down look at what most needs to be secured, security experts say.

To the non-stop list of organizations suffering hacking attacks, now add the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Over the weekend, the organization confirmed to multiple news outlets that its systems had been breached in recent months by a sophisticated attack. 

"This was a very major breach," an unnamed official told the New York Times, indicating that the attack had occurred or at least begun several months ago. Accordingly, the attack would have predated the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who resigned as managing director of the IMF last month after being arrested in New York and charged with sexual assault.

Meanwhile, an unnamed source told Bloomberg that the attack was state-backed, though declined to name a suspected government. That could be an attempt to avoid riling a country that's also one of the IMF's 187 member countries.

Additional details about the IMF attack remain scarce, however, and a spokesperson for the IMF was not available for immediate comment.

Why target the IMF? "These attacks are particularly dangerous because now the hackers have potentially obtained sensitive information on developing nations and their fiscal conditions," said information security expert John D'Arcy, assistant professor of IT management at the University of Notre Dame, in an email. "The value of such information is arguably higher than, say, someone's credit card number or social security number."

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