Russian banks call for direct cooperation with SWIFT after cyber attacks

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Banks in Russia have requested direct communication with SWIFT after the global interbank money transfer system was compromised by hackers.

SWIFT is one of Russia’s main connections to the international banking system, but Russian banks operate through a third party. ROSSWIFT is the second biggest worldwide SWIFT association after the US. Globally SWIFT deals with the technical issues directly associated with banks, while ROSSWIFT operates with the help of an integrator company Alliance Factors.

The integrator company is authorized to solve technical problems for SWIFT users in Russia and CIS countries and is registered in Cyprus.

The appeal for direct communication with SWIFT follows a number of recent hacker attacks resulting in tens of millions of dollars stolen from bank accounts.

"It is unclear on what basis it [Alliance Factors –Ed.] provides services to the clients in Moscow, possibly through outsourcing. The company has access to very important information. This means that in case of losses banks don’t know where to apply,” an unnamed member of ROSSWIFT told Vedomosti.

According to him, there were no complaints over the integrator company’s work but the series of cyber-attacks have scared bankers. Alliance Factors has been acting as a third party for more than 20 years, but concerns arose after the theft of $81 million from the central bank of Bangladesh when hackers used stolen credentials from the bank’s computers to log into the SWIFT system. “Several days ago, in the same way hackers stole $10 million from a Ukrainian bank. We want to understand the level of the system’s safety,” a ROSSWIFT representative said.

“There are a lot of good reviews on Alliance Factors, the company’s specialists work fast and effectively,” said an unnamed banker, adding there’s a need to clarify the legal form of the company’s operations and to appoint its legally-responsible representative in Russia.

The SWIFT system connects more than 10,000 banks in more than 200 countries and provides the messaging that makes trillions of dollars of international payments possible.

In 2014, Russia announced plans to launch its own international interbank system as an alternative to SWIFT. That followed calls not to use SWIFT system in Russian banks as relations between Russia and the West deteriorated over sanctions.

Brussels-based SWIFT said it was under pressure from some Western countries to join the anti-Russian sanctions. However, the company said it would continue services in the country and disconnecting Russia violated the company’s mission.