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Undisclosed Nation-State Launches Cyber Attack on the IMF

June 13th, 2011

Just when things couldn’t get more bizarre for the International Monetary Fund, a leaked internal memo from the powerful global financial entity indicates it was the target of a highly sophisticated “spear-phishing” hacker attack. The BBC indicated that security expert Tom Kellerman told the Reuters news agency, “that it was ‘a targeted attack’ with code written specifically to give a nation state a ‘digital insider presence’ on the IMF network.”

Other views by computer security experts add to the picture that the IMF was targeted by a state actor wanting a presence inside the databases of the organization. While not enough information has been leaked to identify the likely nation-state or its objectives, I will inject my own speculation.

My view is that such an extreme measure targeting the IMF would likely be initiated by a large economy and global creditor that is vulnerable to massive write-downs of its overseas sovereign debt purchases, especially within the Eurozone, UK and USA. Such an actor might decide that the strategy it must implement to safeguard its investments and long-term fiscal equilibrium requires an extraordinary degree of access  to highly confidential IMF data and policy assessments. Furthermore, such an actor would have already established its interest in cyber-warfare, and has an advanced computer infrastructure of sufficient level to design the highly sophisticated software utilized in the IMF hacking operation.

When it comes to the culprit, I don’t think we are talking about Zimbabwe.


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