World Bank denies report of massive data breaches

WBG says report that treasury-related servers were breached is not true.

Count the World Bank Group among the high-profile organizations suffering major data breaches - maybe.

Word of the possible breaches just adds to a weeks-long series of bad news related to the economy and financial industry, turmoil that appears to be starting to take its toll on the tech industry as well.

WBG servers were breached repeatedly starting during the summer of 2007 through as recently as last month, Fox News reports. Breaches included full access to the network of WBG's private-lending arm, the reports say.

The break-ins included the installing keystroke loggers on workstations at WBG headquarters' treasury network in Washington, DC, possibly by a network security contractor.

But the bank says it's not so. "The Fox News story is wrong and is riddled with falsehoods and errors. The story cites misinformation from unattributed sources and leaked e-mails that are taken out of context," according to a statement from WSG.

"Like other public and private institutions, the World Bank has repeatedly experienced hacking attacks on its computer systems and is constantly updating its security to defeat these. But at no point has a hacking attack accessed sensitive information in the World Bank's Treasury, procurement, anti-corruption or human resources departments."

One memo from the senior enterprise risk management officer at WBG written in July details 17 servers that were compromised and highlights five that contained sensitive data: "...care must be taken to determine the amount of information that may have been transmitted outside of the World Bank Group," Jack Conde wrote in the memo, which is posted on the Fox News Web site.

The servers included an HR image system, a domain controller and a Secure ID server, the memo says. It recommends that the affected machines be wiped clean and reimaged from backup tapes dating from before the breach.

After that breach in early July, administrators were required to use two-factor authentication to get into sensitive servers, the July 10 memo says.

Conde said in the memo that the bank believed no treasury-related systems were compromised, although Fox News reports that other intrusions did breach servers in the treasury unit in April.

According to an Aug. 19 memo from the WBG Information Solutions Group, it appears that compromised passwords may have been the means used to hack the network. The Aug. 19 memo posted on Fox News recommends using two-factor authentication for all staff who access Web mail. It also recommends a security-awareness course so employees understand how passwords may be stolen.

WBG tightened controls on external Web sites as well after the breach, the memo says.

WBG provides financial and technical assistance to developing countries and is not a traditional bank, with two divisions, one focusing on credit-worthy countries and the other on the poorest countries.

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Tim Greene

Tim Greene

Network World
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