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Reports: International Monetary Fund suffers network break-in

The IMF becomes the latest high-profile organization to fall victim to a network intrusion, according to various media reports, suffering a substantial breach, the full extent of which is not yet known.

Edward Moyer Senior Editor
Edward Moyer is a senior editor at CNET and a many-year veteran of the writing and editing world. He enjoys taking sentences apart and putting them back together. He also likes making them from scratch. ¶ For nearly a quarter of a century, he's edited and written stories about various aspects of the technology world, from the US National Security Agency's controversial spying techniques to historic NASA space missions to 3D-printed works of fine art. Before that, he wrote about movies, musicians, artists and subcultures.
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Edward Moyer
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The International Monetary Fund has become the latest high-profile organization to fall victim to a network intrusion, according to various media reports, suffering a substantial breach, the full extent of which is not yet known.

Reporting the incident earlier today, The New York Times quoted an unnamed official as saying the breach was a "very major" one and that it had been taking place over the last several months.

The Times said the actual dimensions of the attack were unknown and that the IMF would say only that the Fund was "fully functional" and that the organization was investigating the incident. The IMF declined to say who might be behind the intrusion, the Times reported.

A Bloomberg story, on the other hand, cited an unidentified security expert as saying that the attackers were believed to be connected to an unspecified foreign government and that e-mails and other documents had been taken.

In its efforts to handle global financial crises, facilitate international trade, and address other monetary matters, the IMF is privy to sensitive economic information regarding a number of countries--data that could be extremely valuable to investors and of great interest to governments. The organization has also been criticized for its policies, which some say have, themselves, been responsible for crises.

The breach is the latest in a series of headline grabbing hacks that have involved the likes of computer security company RSA, several U.S. military contractors, search giant and Web-based e-mail purveyor Google, and entertainment behemoth Sony. Cyberespionage and cyberwarfare have also been in the news consistently.

Bloomberg quoted what it said was a memo sent to IMF employees on Wednesday by the organization's chief information officer warning staff to be vigilant:

"Last week we detected some suspicious file transfers, and the subsequent investigation established that a Fund desktop computer had been compromised and used to access some Fund systems. At this point, we have no reason to believe that any personal information was sought for fraud purposes."

The memo, Bloomberg reported, also said the IMF's network connection to the World Bank, which is headquartered across the street from the Fund, had been shut down "as a precautionary measure."

According to Bloomberg, an earlier memo to employees had issued cautions typically associated with the prevention of phishing attacks: "Staff are strongly requested NOT TO OPEN emails and video links without authenticating the source."

Bloomberg reported that the Wednesday memo said the breach was not associated with the group Anonymous, which had earlier threatened an attack on the Fund in association with IMF activities involving the economically hobbled country of Greece. Yesterday, law enforcement officials in Spain said they had arrested several members of Anonymous in connection with attacks on entertainment giant Sony, as well as on governments and financial institutions.