Citigroup denies report of hacker attack

The Wall Street Journal says the FBI is investigating a hacker attack on Citigroup Inc. that led to the theft of tens of millions of dollars, but the company is denying the report.

The Wall Street Journal said Tuesday the FBI is investigating a hacker attack on Citigroup Inc. that led to the theft of tens of millions of dollars, but the company is denying the report.

The article said the hackers were connected to a Russian cyber-gang and that two other computer systems — at least one connected to a U.S. government agency — were also attacked.

U.S. President Barack Obama has called cyber-crime one of the 'most serious economic and national security challenges we face.' ((CBC))

The newspaper said its sources were government officials, but it did not name them.

Citigroup, however, says the report is untrue. 

"We had no breach of the system and there were no losses, no customer losses, no bank losses," said Joe Petro, managing director of Citigroup's security and investigative services. "Any allegation that the FBI is working a case at Citigroup involving tens of millions of losses is just not true."

The Journal reported the attack targeted Citigroup's Citibank subsidiary and was detected over the summer, although it may have occurred up to one year earlier.

It said the FBI, the National Security Agency, the Homeland Security Department and Citigroup worked together to investigate the attack.

President Barack Obama has expressed growing concern about cyber-crime, calling it one of the "most serious economic and national security challenges we face."

On Tuesday, Obama announced the appointment of Howard A. Schmidt, a former eBay and Microsoft executive, as the government's cyber-security co-ordinator.

Attacks on banks 'very common'

Tom Kellermann, a former senior member of the World Bank's Treasury security team and now vice-president of security awareness for Core Security Technologies, said internet attacks on banks are common.

While he said he had no knowledge of any attack on Citigroup, Kellermann said large financial institutions are "consistently targeted" by criminal organizations in Eastern Europe, Brazil and Southeast Asia.

"Ninety-eight per cent of bank heists are now occurring virtually and not in the real world," he said, adding that the industry is "hemorrhaging funds" as a result.

It's often difficult to determine who pulled off a virtual bank heist. Hackers tend to use "botnets," worldwide networks of "zombie" personal computers they've infected with viruses without the knowledge of the computers' owners.

With files from The Associated Press