This Simple Typo Stopped Bank Robbers From Stealing $1 Billion

An audacious group of hackers responsible for the notorious Bangladesh Bank heist failed to secure $1 billion due to a mere spelling error. It’s often said that attention to detail is crucial, and in this case, a single typographical mistake cost these cybercriminals millions—although it’s important to note that we’re not sympathizing with their motives.

The intriguing documentary, “Billion Dollar Heist”, unveils the details of this unparalleled cybercrime feat. Back in 2016, an unidentified group managed to pilfer vast sums from the Central Bank of Bangladesh.

Believed to be the work of the North Korea-based Lazarus group—infamous for the 2014 Sony hack—these hackers transmitted 35 deceitful orders through the SWIFT system, directing almost $1bn to be transferred from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s account, held by Bangladesh Bank, to various global accounts.

SWIFT is a renowned system facilitating international bank transfers. The hackers inundated the Federal Reserve Bank of New York with multiple transfer requests targeting accounts in both Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

Out of these 35, five transactions went through, diverting $101 million across four Filipino accounts and one in Sri Lanka. On the verge of a grand heist, a conspicuous typographical error in an electronic transfer form undid their intricate plotting. In attempting to name a Sri Lankan NGO, the Shalika Foundation, the hackers mistakenly typed ‘fandation’ instead of ‘foundation’.

This blunder raised suspicions, stalling the Sri Lankan transaction. This expensive oversight meant the remaining transfers, totaling a whopping $850 million, were halted. The hackers, however, had already rerouted $81 million to the Philippines.

Misha Glenny, a cybersecurity aficionado featured in the documentary, termed the typo as deeply ‘ironic’. In a discourse, Glenny observed a marked evolution in cybercrime strategies over the past decade. Just like a heist movie, each hacker now plays a specialized part—ranging from writing malware to orchestrating phishing attacks.

Interestingly, analysts observed that these cyber onslaughts followed a consistent timetable, mimicking typical office hours across varying global time zones. This pattern suggested a shift towards a more ‘professionalized’ approach to cybercrime. “Billion Dollar Heist” exposes the vulnerabilities of our digital data and underscores the catastrophic repercussions of security breaches.

The documentary’s synopsis poignantly states that it’s ‘a compelling narrative that unveils alarming realities for every internet user, “Billion Dollar Heist” will fundamentally shift how you perceive your online existence, underscoring the importance of robust authentication measures.’