The death of money, poor spelling and the failed $1 billion cyber-heist

 

We predicted it. Last Thursday we mentioned in passing that mobile resources were changing the way we bank. As we no longer need to go to a bank to withdraw or deposit money, the day would come, we conjectured, when armed robberies would become a thing of the past. We ended by warning about the possibility of a rise in cyber-crimes, which spared all of us the violence involved in the traditional heists. Sure enough, last weekend the world found out about the transfer of $80 million from the Central Bank of Bangladesh into bank accounts in the Philippines. Cyber-thieves penetrated the system of the Bangladeshi institution and instructed it with simple protocols to deliver those large sums. One spelling error, however, stopped a $1 billion transfer. The IT genius surely found school boring and did not do his homework, for someone of his capacity should know how to spell “foundation” (one of the fictitious payees of the stolen funds). Instead, this hacker wrote “fandation,” triggering a security alert at an intermediary institution—Deutsche Bank—which double-checked with the Bangladeshi central bank, bringing the whole scheme to light. So, this is the new frontier in crime. But surely classical education has its benefits. It enlightens, and it may help to get rich too, if only honestly and more slowly than making off with stolen quick money. Speaking of which: is money as we know it on its death throes? In a credit-based society, money has become an electronic signal backed up by real currency actually deposited at a branch. Yet when we withdraw it from an automatic cash dispenser anywhere in the world, automatic systems are simply reporting information that, indeed, that money exists. Does not that sound a bit like the time when money was backed up by gold?

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