The International Monetary Fund has fallen victim to a major cyber attack that targeted the confidential economic information of countries around the world. The hackers carried out the attack using a method known as “spear phishing”, where an individual is tricked into opening a phony email link carrying a virus. The infiltration had utilized sophisticated code designed specifically to attack the IMF.
The implications of this strike are considerable, both for the IMF and for the financial systems of its 187 member nations. The data stored within IMF computer systems might permit hackers to profit from international bonds and currencies. Furthermore, the leaked information could compromise the bailout programs for countries such as Ireland, Greece and Portugal. At this point, it does not appear that any personal information was taken for purposes of fraud.
Given the influx of cyber attacks in recent months, should we expect the frequency and severity of computer security breaches to escalate? Particularly frightening is the prospect that hackers could eventually target critical national infrastructure such as energy (NYSE:XLE) and water (NYSE:PHO). U.S. electricity (NYSE:XLU), security (NYSE:PPA), finance (NYSE:XLF) and government are all reliant on computer-based systems that could also be jeopardized by such an attack. National security officials should heed the warning signs from these increasingly sophisticated strikes against global organizations. Maybe consumers flocking to the cloud should think twice as well.