Sat, Sep 24, 2016 - Page 12 News List

First Financial repels hackers’ ransom demand

By Ted Chen  /  Staff reporter

State-run First Financial Holding Co (第一金控) yesterday said that its banking and brokerage subsidiaries had repelled a “ransomware” attack by unidentified hackers that affected its online services on Thursday.

On Wednesday evening, First Securities (第一金證券) and First Commercial Bank (第一銀行) received an e-mail from hackers demanding a ransom of 50 bitcoins (US$29,916.5) or else they would face attacks to their electronic trading systems, First Financial said in a filing to the Taiwan Stock Exchange yesterday.

At 10:50am on Thursday, the companies detected that their systems were becoming strained from a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, with online services slowing to a crawl due to spiking network bandwidth usage.

First Securities said that although its online services had slowed, its electronic trading systems had remained operational during the attack.

The brokerage said it was still able to process clients’ market orders, albeit at a slower speed, by activating a backup system.

Orders were also placed via telephone and processed by manual trade matching, it said.

First Securities said it had completed scrubbing and blocking of malicious IP addresses involved in the attack by 7:30pm on Thursday, and that trading was unaffected during yesterday’s session.

First Bank said its retail and corporate online banking services were restored on Thursday at 2:30am and 2pm respectively.

However, a number of clients reported that they were unable to log into their Internet banking and brokerage accounts, the Financial Supervisory Commission said.

The commission said it had urged First Financial to shore up its information security, adding that it would tighten its supervision of the holding company’s online operations.

Should it find any irregularities in the online trading system, the company must immediately inform its clients and investors, and come up with measures to deal with the situation, the commission said.

First Financial reported no losses resulting from the cyberattacks.

The company’s aggregate net income rose 13.8 percent annually to NT$12.16 billion (US$388.13 million) in the first eight months of the year.

There was no indication as to where the hacker attacks originated, the commission said.

It was an isolated incident and no attacks, threats or disruptions were found in other financial institutions, the commission added. Prosecutors are looking into the case, it said.

Based on the commission’s data, First Securities has a market share of about 1.6 percent in the brokerage business and 40 percent of its clients are institutional investors.

On Sept. 13, the commission fined First Bank NT$10 million for vulnerabilities that led to an automated teller machine (ATM) heist in July, when hackers made off with NT$83.27 million in cash.

A total of 22 suspects from six countries were involved in the high-profile ATM cash theft, and 19 suspects who escaped have been put on a wanted list, with the other three having been indicted in Taiwan.

After an intensive search by police, nearly NT$5.79 million of the stolen cash is still unaccounted for.

Additional reporting by CNA

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