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Engineers are investigating how hackers managed to crack the New York arm of the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) – a financial institution with $5.74 trillion in total assets.

The hack forced the ICBC to settle trades using a USB stick while forcing banks, brokerages and market makers to reroute trades, reports Bloomberg.

The attack also disrupted the bank’s ability to participate in the Treasury’s bond auction on Thursday.

Investigators believe the ransomware gang Lockbit, which has ties to Russia, is behind the attack.

Without naming names, Bloomberg says banking leaders admit the hack highlights fears that a system-wide attack could one day bring the traditional financial system to a halt.

“The incident spotlights a danger that bank leaders concede keeps them up at night — the prospect of a cyberattack that could someday cripple a key piece of the financial system’s wiring, setting off a cascade of disruptions.”

The ICBC says it’s debating whether to ask for assistance from China’s Ministry of State Security.

The number of ransomware attacks on the financial industry has increased in recent years, according to a report from the cybersecurity firm Sophos.

“The 2023 survey revealed that the rate of ransomware attacks in financial services continues to rise. It went up from 55% in the 2022 report to 64% in this year’s study, which was almost double the 34% reported by the sector in the 2021 report. Although the sector experienced an increased attack rate, it was below the cross-sector average of 66%.”

Sophos says financial institutions are stepping up their efforts to stay secure.

The firm’s survey of 3,000 cybersecurity/IT leaders, including 336 in the financial services sector, found 81% of organizations say their data is encrypted, a 50% rise over the previous year.

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