THE prevailing lack of cyber security in Bangladesh, particularly in financial institutions is a matter of serious national concern. According to a New Age report on Monday, the majority of the government installations and banks are at risk of cyber attack. More specifically, 80.5 per cent IT system in government offices and 52 per cent of bank systems have taken no proper measure to tackle the growing cyber threat across the globe. A non-government research organisation, Crime Research and Analysis Foundation disclosed that at least thirty computers were reportedly affected so far in Bangladesh by the global attack. It is only incidental that no government system was disrupted. However, this most recent global cyber attack Ransomware — leveraging hacking tools believed to have been developed by the US National Security Agency has infected tens of thousands of computers in nearly 100 countries on May 12-13 — have revealed how vulnerable the national cyber security system in Bangladesh. Therefore, the disconcerting cyber security situation in Bangladesh is antithetical to incumbent’s vision and claim to establish a ‘Digital Bangladesh.’
It is particularly worrying that even after the notorious Bangladesh Bank cyber heist, the cyber security system in banking sector still remains flawed. In February 2016, instructions to steal US$951 million from Bangladesh Bank, the central bank of Bangladesh, were issued via the SWIFT network. Five transactions issued by hackers, worth $101 million and withdrawn from a Bangladesh Bank account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, succeeded, with $20 million traced to Sri Lanka (since recovered) and $81 million to the Philippines (about $18 million recovered). The Federal Reserve Bank of NY blocked the remaining thirty transactions, amounting to $850 million, at the request of Bangladesh Bank. It was identified later that Dridex malware was used for the attack. Moreover, in its annual report 2016, Bangladesh e-Government Computer Incident Response Team, a wing of Bangladesh Computer Council mentioned that 80.50 per cent of the government installations were found vulnerable. In spite of the heinous attack on the national bank, and the reported vulnerabilities, it is absolutely unacceptable that the government is lagging behind in taking capacity building measures, building skilled manpower, awareness and regulatory environment to prevent future cyber crime.
To take a great leap forward, the government should immediately take measures to immunise the financial industry from fast-moving cyber attacks by enforcing the Digital Security Bill 2016, as well as incorporating threat-prioritised remediation processes and timely management of the vulnerability such as the recent Ransomeware. It should also develop skilled (wo)man power to tackle the growing cyber threat. Instead of making rhetorical claim about ‘Digital Bangladesh’, it should recognise that in a global environment in which information technology rules the political economy, the question of the country’s cyber security is inseparable from the national security concerns. In the same vein, it is the duty of the incumbent to maintain the sovereign control of its cyberspace.
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