A Cyber-Attack on Any Critical Infrastructure could be Serious

Important Takeaways:

  • On the heels of sanctions, threats of cyber-attacks loom
  • Officials have been warning Americans of potential Russian cyber -attacks in retaliation to US imposed sanctions.
  • Cyber-attacks could include the targeting of critical infrastructure, pointing to the 2021 Colonial pipeline hack.
  • Brown said other crucial sectors that could also be targeted are those such as the financial sector, as banks have been preparing for cyber-attacks.
  • Mark Kleene, owner of MVK Financial Planning agreed, saying that having a cash [on hand] position wouldn’t hurt…

Read the original article by clicking here.

Democrats scrap bank reporting requirement from U.S. spending package

By Pete Schroeder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. banks will not be required to report additional information about certain accounts to the Internal Revenue Service after Democrats removed the proposal from a sweeping government spending package.

The exclusion of the provision, originally sought by some Democratic lawmakers as a way to identify people underreporting income on their taxes, marks a major victory for banks and credit unions that had vigorously opposed the provision.

U.S. President Joe Biden unveiled the framework for a $1.75 trillion economic and climate change plan on Thursday, his latest attempt to unify Democrats in Congress behind a comprehensive bill pursuing many of his top policy priorities.

Earlier versions of the package, which reached as high as $3 trillion in new investments, also included language requiring banks to report to the IRS any bank accounts that had $600 in money in or out every year. That proposal was not included in the framework outlined by the White House on Thursday.

Proponents, including Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, argued that the information would make it easier for tax collectors to identify accounts that experienced significantly higher activity than reported on taxes, and also raise large amounts of revenue to help pay for the new spending proposals.

The banking industry, calling the provision onerous and intrusive, launched an all-out lobbying battle against it. Democrats attempted to temper the provision by raising the reporting threshold to $10,000, but intense industry opposition, alongside concerns from moderate Democrats, helped push it out of the revamped package.

“The last thing Americans want right now is the government snooping on their accounts,” said Jim Nussle, head of the Credit Union National Association. “Safeguarding consumer privacy and data security is a key part of promoting financial well-being for all, and it’s encouraging that Congress recognizes this credit union priority.”

(Reporting by Pete Schroeder; Editing by Will Dunham)

Afghanistan’s banks brace for bedlam after Taliban takeover

By Tom Arnold and Karin Strohecker

LONDON (Reuters) – Afghanistan’s banks, critical to the country’s recovery from crisis, are facing an uncertain future say its bankers, with doubts over everything from liquidity to employment of female staff after the Taliban swept to power.

Banks were expected to reopen imminently, a Taliban spokesman said on Tuesday, after they were closed for some ten days and the financial system ground to a halt as the Western-backed government collapsed amid the pullout of U.S. and allied troops.

Yet there has been scant evidence so far of a reopening or of banking services returning to normal, with large crowds thronging the streets outside banks in Kabul on Wednesday.

“The banks continue to be closed – with no clear signs of reopening, they have run out of money,” said Gazal Gailani, trade and economic adviser at the Afghan embassy in London.

“Afghanistan’s banking system is now in a state of collapse, and people are running out of money.”

Many rural areas get by largely without banks. But in the cities, where government worker salaries are often paid into bank accounts, closures are causing hardship in a mostly cash-based economy.

The outlook for lenders looks precarious, with looming questions about the Taliban’s grasp of finance and its ability to restart an economy shattered by 40 years of war.

With no significant exports apart from illegal narcotics bringing in cash, one immediate obstacle is liquidity in a country that is heavily dollarized and relies on regular physical dollar-shipments that have been halted, according to former central bank chief Ajmal Ahmady.

The Afghanistan Banks Association (ABA) had reached out to the central bank to coordinate steps on a return to normality, said Syed Moosa Kaleem Al-Falahi, chief executive and president of Islamic Bank of Afghanistan (IBA), one of Afghanistan’s three largest banks.

Commercial banks had collectively decided to suspend services until the central bank confirmed liquidity and security arrangements, he said.

“It would be rather difficult to control the rush if banks reopen immediately,” he added.

Liquidity had already been an issue in the run-up to the bank closures as people scrambled to withdraw cash.

Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB), the central bank, provided financial support to banks during last week’s cash squeeze, said a banker at one of Afghanistan’s largest lenders, speaking on condition of anonymity.

But its ability to continue to do so appears uncertain, with DAB’s roughly $9 billion in foreign reserves looking largely out of Taliban reach.

“Banks will face major liquidity challenges as central bank officials have not had access to reserves yet,” the banker said.

“They will face foreign currency liquidity issues which will cause huge fluctuations in the exchange rates.”

SCARCE DOLLARS

The afghani plunged on the expectation of dollar scarcity and further volatility is expected, with Afghanistan’s import coverage reportedly collapsing from more than 15 months to a couple of days.

Bankers in Afghanistan are also waiting for clarity from foreign-based correspondent banks, which provide services such as currency exchange and money transfers, on whether ties will continue after the Taliban takeover. Any new sanctions could see many links cut.

A senior Afghan banker said their bank’s correspondent banks in Turkey, Russia, Spain, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Pakistan and India were still showing support.

Faith in the banking system was severely damaged by the 2010 collapse of Kabul Bank, in one of the biggest corruption scandals of the 20-year Western presence in Afghanistan.

Banks emerged in generally good health from the COVID-19 pandemic, said DAB in its 2020 report, noticing no liquidity shortfall, while capital positions met regulatory thresholds and assets swelled 4% to 327 billion afghanis ($3.8 billion).

But the current crisis will further set back confidence in a sector which has struggled to expand services in a thinly banked country.

According to the International Monetary Fund, only 183 of every 1,000 people hold a deposit account; there are less than two bank branches or cash machines for every 100,000 adults.

FEMALE STAFF WORRIES

This week, the Taliban said it had named Haji Mohammad Idris, a loyalist with no formal financial training, as DAB’s acting governor. A senior Taliban leader defended the appointment, saying Idris was respected for his expertise.

It is so far unclear whether Afghanistan’s less than a dozen banks, all but one of which are conventional, will have to convert to Islamic banking, a lengthy and costly procedure.

More uncertainty surrounds the future employment of female staff.

“So far there is no official communication from them (the Taliban) with respect to female staff,” said IBA’s Al-Falahi. “Our female staff will return to work when we reopen.”

But given the Taliban’s track record, their assurances that women would be allowed to work consistent with Islamic law have been met with skepticism.

The banker at one of Afghanistan’s largest lenders said their bank had a plan to ensure it could continue operations in the event of it having to dismiss its roughly 20% of female staff.

“We expect we will face challenges such as losing qualified and high-skilled staff as most of them are planning to flee the country at the first opportunity,” the banker said.

($1 = 85.9000 afghanis)

(Reporting by Tom Arnold and Karin Strohecker in London, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

Size matters. Big U.S. farms get even bigger amid China trade war

By Mark Weinraub

HAZELTON, N.D. (Reuters) – As the 2018 harvest approached, North Dakota farmer Mike Appert had a problem – too many soybeans and nowhere to put them. Selling was a bad option. Prices were near-decade lows as U.S. President Donald Trump’s trade war with China weighed heavily on the market. Temporary storage would only buy him a little bit of time, particularly in an area where cold weather can damage crops stored in plastic bags.

So Appert, who farms 48,000 acres (19,425 hectares), cut a check for $800,000 to build eight new permanent steel bins. That allowed him to hold onto his bumper crop and wait for prices to recover.

He sold half of the 456,000 bushels stored on his farm throughout the following summer, earning about $1 more per bushel and avoiding storage at nearby CHS elevators or an Archer Daniels Midland Co. processor in the area.

But most farmers do not have $800,000 to spend on steel bins, and many are going under. The number of U.S. farms fell by 12,800 to 2.029 million in 2018, the smallest ever, as the trade war pushes more farmers into retirement or bankruptcy.

Roger Hadley, who farms 1,000 acres in Indiana, was unable to plant any corn and soybeans this year after heavy rains added to farmers’ woes.

He spent most of the summer trying to plant a combination of grasses, a so-called cover crop, so he could apply for government aid and try again next year.

“The guys that got rich are getting richer,” Hadley said. “It has frustrated a lot of guys.”

In farming, size does matter. The farms left standing after the trade war will likely be some of the biggest in the business. Appert’s operations are more than 100 times bigger than the average American farm and the advantages provided by that magnitude are becoming even more critical as the trade war stretches into a second year.

The declining number of U.S. farmers could hurt the world’s top grain merchants such as ADM and Bunge, who will have fewer suppliers. Additionally, farmers will have less need to rent space in the merchants’ grain silos as big farmers like Appert have plentiful storage on their own farms.

ADM said it would continue changing to meet the needs of its customers. Bunge did not respond to an email seeking comment.

By the end of 2018, the average U.S. farm size rose to 443 acres, a 12-year high and up from 441 million in 2017, according to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture data.

And the biggest farmers are growing their operations even more as retiring farmers choose to lease their land rather than selling it.

When land becomes available for lease, only the biggest farmers can readily shoulder the costs needed to expand.

The size of the loans smaller farmers would need to buy equipment, for example, are too big for applicants with little collateral, said Dave Kusler, president of the Bank of Hazelton in Hazelton, North Dakota.

“It is almost impossible with what the costs are,” Kuslersaid. “In this area, you can’t make a living on 1,000 acres.”

Critics say the Trump administration’s policy of compensating growers for lost sales due to the trade war pays the bigger farm operations more since payments are calculated by acres farmed.

The Environmental Working Group, a conservation organization, said in a recent study the top 1% of aid recipients received an average of more than $180,000 while the bottom 80% were paid less than $5,000 in aid.

Appert said that big farmers receive bigger outright payments but less per acre than small farms because of a $500,000 cap per farm.

‘BOOM, BOOM, BOOM’

Big farms can reap the full benefits of new high-tech equipment that boosts farm yields.

Doug Zink, who farms 35,000 acres near Carrington, North Dakota, said he likes to trade in his fleet of four combines and planters nearly every year to ensure that his equipment is under warranty, which saves thousands of dollars in maintenance costs and helps avoid breakdowns during key seeding and planting periods.

They also receive deep discounts – as much as $40,000 for some combine harvesters that can cost as much as $400,000 – allowing them to upgrade more often.

Manufacturers are increasingly willing to cut such deals to keep clients as the number of customers falls. Deere & Co <DE.N> said that it will reduce production by 20% at its facilities in Illinois and Iowa in the second of half of the year. Rival agricultural machine makers AGCO Corp <AGCO.N> and CNH Industrial <CNHI.N> have also slashed production to keep inventory in line with retail demand.

Large farms also have the easiest access to capital, with bankers still eager to provide loans to growers with plenty of collateral. “The ag trend is going to larger farms,” Kusler, the bank president in Hazelton, North Dakota, said, “The loans get much larger.”

Appert had no problem getting a loan to finance expansion.

“If you want to get a mortgage and buy a piece of land it is just boom, boom, boom,” he said.

(Reporting by Mark Weinraub; Editing by Caroline Stauffer and Marguerita Choy)

North Korea denies it amassed $2 billion through cyberattacks on banks

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea denied on Sunday allegations that it had obtained $2 billion through cyberattacks on banks and cryptocurrency exchanges, and accused the United States for spreading rumors.

A United Nations report seen by Reuters last month said North Korea had used “widespread and increasingly sophisticated” cyberattacks to steal from banks and cryptocurrency exchanges, amassing $2 billion which it used to fund weapons of mass destruction programs.

“The United States and other hostile forces are now spreading ill-hearted rumors,” North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency reported, citing a statement from the spokesperson for the National Coordination Committee of the DPRK for Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism.

“Such a fabrication by the hostile forces is nothing but a sort of a nasty game aimed at tarnishing the image of our Republic and finding justification for sanctions and pressure campaign against the DPRK,” the statement said.

Washington has made scant progress toward its goal of getting North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program, despite three meetings between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

North Korea’s vice foreign minister said on Saturday that hopes for talks with Washington were fading, and criticized Mike Pompeo’s recent comments about “North Korea’s rogue behavior”.

Pyongyang has been blamed in recent years for a series of online attacks, mostly on financial networks, in the United States, South Korea and over a dozen other countries, as experts say such cyber activities generate hard currency for the regime.

The crux of the allegations against North Korea is its connection to a hacking group called Lazarus that is linked to $81 million cyber heist at the Bangladesh central bank in 2016 and a 2014 attack on Sony’s Hollywood studio.

(Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

North Korea took $2 billion in cyber attacks to fund weapons program: U.N. report

FILE PHOTO: A man holds a laptop computer as cyber code is projected on him in this illustration picture taken on May 13, 2017. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Illustration/File Photo

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – North Korea has generated an estimated $2 billion for its weapons of mass destruction programs using “widespread and increasingly sophisticated” cyberattacks to steal from banks and cryptocurrency exchanges, according to a confidential U.N. report seen by Reuters on Monday.

Pyongyang also “continued to enhance its nuclear and missile programs although it did not conduct a nuclear test or ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) launch,” said the report to the U.N. Security Council North Korea sanctions committee by independent experts monitoring compliance over six months.

The North Korean mission to the United Nations did not respond to a request for comment on the report, which was submitted to the Security Council committee last week.

The experts said North Korea “used cyberspace to launch increasingly sophisticated attacks to steal funds from financial institutions and cryptocurrency exchanges to generate income.” They also used cyberspace to launder the stolen money, the report said.

“Democratic People’s Republic of Korea cyber actors, many operating under the direction of the Reconnaissance General Bureau, raise money for its WMD (weapons of mass destruction) programs, with total proceeds to date estimated at up to two billion US dollars,” the report said.

North Korea is formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The Reconnaissance General Bureau is a top North Korean military intelligence agency.

The U.N. experts said North Korea’s attacks against cryptocurrency exchanges allowed it “to generate income in ways that are harder to trace and subject to less government oversight and regulation than the traditional banking sector.”

The Security Council has unanimously imposed sanctions on North Korea since 2006 in a bid to choke off funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The Council has banned exports including coal, iron, lead, textiles and seafood, and capped imports of crude oil and refined petroleum products.

U.S. President Donald Trump has met with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un three times, most recently in June when he became the first sitting U.S. president to set foot in North Korea at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between the two Koreas.

They agreed to resume stalled talks aimed at getting Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons program. The talks have yet to resume and in July and early August, North Korea carried out three short-range missiles tests in eight days.

The U.N. report was completed before last week’s missile launches by North Korea, but noted that “missile launches in May and July enhanced its overall ballistic missile capabilities.”

The U.N. experts said that despite the diplomatic efforts, their “investigations show continued violations” of U.N. sanctions.

“For example, the DPRK continued to violate sanctions through ongoing illicit ship-to-ship transfers and procurement of WMD-related items and luxury goods,” the U.N. report said.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Grant McCool)

Fed raises interest rates, signals more hikes ahead

A screen displays the headlines that the U.S. Federal Reserve raised interest rates as a trader works at a post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., December 19, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

By Ann Saphir and Howard Schneider

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – After weeks of market volatility and calls by President Donald Trump for the Federal Reserve to stop raising interest rates, the U.S. central bank instead did it again, and stuck by a plan to keep withdrawing support from an economy it views as strong.

U.S. stocks and bond yields fell hard. With the Fed signaling “some further gradual” rate hikes and no break from cutting its massive bond portfolio, traders fretted that policymakers could choke off economic growth.

“Maybe they have already committed their policy error,” said Fritz Folts, chief investment strategist at 3Edge Asset Management. “We would be in the camp that they have already raised rates too much.”

Interest rate futures show traders are currently betting the Fed won’t raise rates at all next year.

Wednesday’s rate increase, the fourth of the year, pushed the central bank’s key overnight lending rate to a range of 2.25 percent to 2.50 percent.

In a news conference after the release of the policy statement, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said the central bank would continue trimming its balance sheet by $50 billion each month, and left open the possibility that continued strong data could force it to raise rates to the point where they start to brake the economy’s momentum.

Powell did bow to what he called recent “softening” in global growth, tighter financial conditions, and expectations the U.S. economy will slow next year, and said that with inflation expected to remain a touch below the Fed’s 2 percent target next year, policymakers can be “patient.”

Fresh economic forecasts showed officials at the median now see only two more rate hikes next year compared to the three projected in September.

But another message was clear in the statement issued after the Fed’s last policy meeting of the year as well as in Powell’s comments: The U.S. economy continues to perform well and no longer needs the Fed’s support either through lower-than-normal interest rates or by maintaining of a massive balance sheet.

“Policy does not need to be accommodative,” he said.

In its statement, the Fed said risks to the economy were “roughly balanced” but that it would “continue to monitor global economic and financial developments and assess their implications for the economic outlook.”

The Fed also made a widely expected technical adjustment, raising the rate it pays on banks’ excess reserves by just 20 basis points to give it better control over the policy rate and keep it within the targeted range.

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell arrives at his news conference after a Federal Open Market Committee meeting in Washington, U.S., December 19, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell arrives at his news conference after a Federal Open Market Committee meeting in Washington, U.S., December 19, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

CHOPPY WATERS

The decision to raise borrowing costs again is likely to anger Trump, who has repeatedly attacked the central bank’s tightening this year as damaging to the economy.

The Fed has been raising rates to reduce the boost that monetary policy gives to the economy, which is growing faster than what central bank policymakers view as a sustainable rate.

There are worries, however, that the economy could enter choppy waters next year as the fiscal boost from the Trump administration’s spending and $1.5 trillion tax cut package fades and the global economy slows.

“I think that markets were looking for more in terms of the pause,” said Jamie Cox, managing partner at Harris Financial Group in Richmond, Virginia.

“It’s not as dovish as expected, but I do believe the Fed will ultimately back off even further as we move into the new year.”

The benchmark S&amp;P 500 index &lt;.SPX&gt; tumbled to a 15-month low, extending a streak of volatility that has dogged the market since late September. The index is down nearly 15 percent from its record high.

Benchmark 10-year Treasury yields fell as low as 2.75 percent, the lowest since April 4.

ECONOMIC PROJECTIONS

Fed policymakers’ median forecast puts the federal funds rate at 3.1 percent at the end of 2020 and 2021, according to the projections.

That would leave borrowing costs just above policymakers’ newly downgraded median view of a 2.8 percent neutral rate that neither brakes nor boosts a healthy economy, but still within the 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent range of Fed estimates for that rate.

Powell parried three questions about whether the Fed intended to restrict the economy with its rate policy, but gave little away.

“There would be circumstances in which it would be appropriate for us to go past neutral, and there would be circumstances in which it would be wholly inappropriate to do so.”

Gross domestic product is forecast to grow 2.3 percent next year and 2.0 percent in 2020, slightly weaker than the Fed previously anticipated. The unemployment rate, currently at a 49-year low of 3.7 percent, is expected to fall to 3.5 percent next year and rise slightly in 2020 and 2021.

Inflation, which hit the central bank’s 2 percent target this year, is expected to be 1.9 percent next year, a bit lower than the 2.0 percent forecast three months ago.

There were no dissents in the Fed’s policy decision.

(Reporting by Ann Saphir and Howard Schneider; Additional reporting by Lewis Krauskopf in New York; Editing by Paul Simao and Dan Burns)

Israel braces for general strike on Wednesday, government says may be averted

Cranes are seen at a construction site in the new neighbourhood of Carmei Gat in the southern Israeli city of Kiryat Gat November 1, 2016. REUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo

By Steven Scheer

JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Israel’s main public sector union said it would go ahead with a planned general strike on Wednesday that would shut down airports, banks and all government offices, in protest over what it says is state inaction over construction site deaths.

The strike, due to start at 6 a.m. (0400 GMT), is meant to be indefinite, but it is likely to last no more than a day since the courts typically order workers back to work and both sides back to the negotiation table.

“We are witnessing more and more casualties every day, new casualties and serious safety incidents that could have been prevented,” Histadrut chief Avi Nissenkorn said on Tuesday.

“If no solution is found in the coming hours, the economy will be hit by a general strike tomorrow.”

A Histadrut spokesman said its representatives were meeting officials from the Finance Ministry and other ministries in a last-ditch effort to avert a strike.

Asked about the situation, a Finance Ministry spokeswoman said: “We are in negotiations. We believe it will be resolved tonight.”

The Histadrut labor federation has demanded the government adopt European construction standards, beef up safety measures and enforce a law on wearing safety harnesses.

It wants the government to spend an additional 20 million shekels ($5.4 million) on hiring more safety inspectors.

The Finance Ministry says it places a high importance on improving work safety at construction sites and says it is working with the Labour Ministry to implement measures.

Last week the federation threatened strike action if its demands were not met. It said Israeli polling firm Smith had found 66 percent of Israelis supported any strike action.

Among those that would be affected are Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport and Ovda Airport near Eilat, as well as the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, Bank of Israel, commercial banks and trains.

The Histadrut says about 40 workers have died on building sites so far in 2018 and 200 others have been seriously injured.

Labour activists say 35 people died in 2017 and the Haaretz newspaper said the number of such deaths in previous years had averaged around 30.

On Tuesday the Histadrut held demonstrations at some 20 main intersections across Israel.

(Reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Exclusive: Ukraine says Russia hackers laying groundwork for massive strike

A message demanding money is seen on a monitor of a payment terminal at a branch of Ukraine's state-owned bank Oschadbank after Ukrainian institutions were hit by cyber attacks, in Kiev, Ukraine June 27, 2017. Picture taken June 27, 2017. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

By Pavel Polityuk

KIEV (Reuters) – Hackers from Russia are infecting Ukrainian companies with malware to create so-called ‘back doors’ for a large coordinated attack, Ukraine’s cyber police chief told Reuters on Tuesday, almost a year after a strike on Ukraine spread around the world.

Affected companies range across various industries, such as banks or energy infrastructure. The pattern of the malware being rolled out suggests the people behind it want to activate it on a particular day, Serhiy Demedyuk said.

Demedyuk said his staff were cooperating with foreign agencies to track the hackers, without naming the agencies.

Police had identified viruses designed to hit Ukraine since the start of the year, including phishing emails sent from legitimate domains of state institutions whose systems were hacked, or a fake webpage mimicking that of a real state body.

They had intercepted hackers sending malware from different sources and broken into various components so as to remain undetected by antivirus software until activated as a single unit, Demedyuk said.

“Analysis of the malicious software that has already been identified and the targeting of attacks on Ukraine suggest that this is all being done for a specific day,” he said.

Relations between Ukraine and Russia plunged following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, and Kiev has accused Russia of orchestrating large-scale cyber attacks as part of a “hybrid war” against Ukraine, which Moscow repeatedly denies.

Some attacks coincided with major Ukrainian holidays and Demedyuk said another strike could be launched on Thursday — Constitution Day — or on Independence Day in August.

On June 27 last year, the country was hit by a massive strike known as “NotPetya”, which knocked out Ukrainian IT systems before spreading around the world. The United States and Britain joined Ukraine in blaming Russia for the attack.

Demedyuk said the scale of the latest detected preparations was the same as NotPetya.

“This is support on a government level – very expensive and very synchronized. Without the help of government bodies it would not be possible. We’re talking now about the Russian Federation,” he said.

“Everything we’re seeing, everything we’ve intercepted in this period: 99 percent of the traces come from Russia.”

The Kremlin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ukraine is better prepared to withstand such attacks thanks to cooperation with foreign allies since the NotPetya strike, Demedyuk said. Ukraine has received support from the U.S., Britain and NATO among others to beef up its cyber defenses.

But Demedyuk said some Ukrainian companies had not bothered to clean their computers after NotPetya struck, leaving machines still infected by the virus and vulnerable to being used for another attack.

“We are sounding the alarm to remind people – come to your senses, check your equipment,” he said. “It’s better to be on the safe side than clean up a mess like last time.”

He also appealed to global companies who were hit by NotPetya, including U.S. and European firms in Ukraine, to share details of their investigations and steps to localize the hack.

“They have a huge amount of very interesting evidence, which they store themselves. We would like it if they weren’t scared and approached us.”

(Additional reporting by Margarita Popova in Moscow; writing by Matthias Williams; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

‘Jackpotting’ hackers steal over $1 million from ATM machines across U.S.: Secret Service

A hooded man holds a laptop computer as blue screen with an exclamation mark is projected on him in this illustration picture taken on May 13, 2017.

By Dustin Volz

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A coordinated group of hackers likely tied to international criminal syndicates has pilfered more than $1 million by hijacking ATM machines across the United States and forcing them to spit out bills like slot machines dispensing a jackpot, a senior U.S. Secret Service official said on Monday.

Within the past few days there have been about a half-dozen successful “jackpotting” attacks, the official said.

The heists, which involve hacking ATMs to rapidly shoot out torrents of cash, have been observed across the United States spanning from the Gulf Coast in the southern part of the country to the New England region in the northeast, Matthew O’Neill, a special agent in the criminal investigations division, told Reuters in an interview.

The spate of attacks represented the first widespread jackpotting activity in the United States, O’Neill said. Previous campaigns have been spotted in parts of Europe and Latin America in recent years.

“It was just a matter of time until it hit our shores,” O’Neill said.

Diebold Nixdorf Inc and NCR Corp, two of the world’s largest ATM makers, warned last week that cyber criminals are targeting ATMs with tools needed to carry out jackpotting schemes.

The Diebold Nixdorf alert described steps that criminals had used to compromise ATMs. They include gaining physical access, replacing the hard drive and using an industrial endoscope to depress an internal button required to reset the device.

A confidential U.S. Secret Service alert seen by Reuters and sent to banks on Friday said machines running XP were more vulnerable and encouraged ATM operators to update to Windows 7 to protect against the attack, which appeared to be targeting ATMs typically located in pharmacies, big box retailers and drive-thrus.

While initial intelligence suggested only ATMs running on outdated Windows XP software were being targeted, the Secret Service has seen successful attacks within the past 48 hours on machines running updated Windows 7, O’Neil said.

“There isn’t one magic solution to solve the problem,” he said.

A local electronic crimes task force in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area first reported an unsuccessful jackpotting attempt last week, O’Neill said.

A few days later another local partner witnessed similar activity and “developed intelligence” that indicated a sustained, coordinated attack was likely to occur over the next two weeks, O’Neill said. He declined to say where that partner was located.

Jackpotting has been rising worldwide in recent years, though it is unclear how much cash has been stolen because victims and police often do not disclose details.

(Reporting by Dustin Volz in Washington, D.C.; Editing by David Gregorio)