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World’s largest bank forced to use USB stick to trade

The US financial services arm of China’s ICBC bank was hit by a cyberattack


The world’s largest bank by deposits, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), suffered a cyberattack that reportedly disrupted US Treasury trades this week, forcing the firm to use a USB stick to complete settlements.  

ICBC revealed on Thursday that its US financial services unit had experienced a ransomware attack that resulted in disruption to several systems.  

The lender consequently had to send a messenger with a USB stick containing settlement details to the impacted parties, according to media reports.   

The bank said it had “successfully cleared” US Treasury trades executed on Wednesday. However, numerous reports stated there had been disruption, while market participants said liquidity had been affected.  

“This is a true shock to large banks around the world,” said Marcus Murray, founder of Swedish cybersecurity firm Truesec. “The ICBC hack will make large banks around the globe race to improve their defenses, starting today.”

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The unit had $23.5 billion in assets at the end of 2022, according to its most recent annual filing with US regulators.  

Ransomware is a type of cyberattack when hackers take control of systems or information in order to demand a ransom. This type of attack has seen a surge in popularity among hackers in recent years.

China has banned crypto-related transactions, meaning its banks have historically not been targeted as hackers usually demand a cryptocurrency ransom, which provides more anonymity.

Nobody has thus far claimed responsibility for the ICBC attack, and the Chinese lender has not said who might be behind the incident.  According to analytics firm Chainalysis, payments for ransomware attacks this year had grown to $500 million as of the end of September, marking a 50% increase on last year.

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