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ICBC Cyber Attack: A Wake-Up Call for Financial Security

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

ICBC headquarters

China's largest lender, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), fell victim to a cyber attack last week, culminating in a reported ransom payment to the Lockbit hacking group. Although a Lockbit representative claimed the ransom was paid on Monday, Reuters could not independently verify the information.

The ransomware incident, affecting ICBC's U.S. arm and disrupting U.S. Treasury market activities on November 9, prompted no immediate response from ICBC to media inquiries.

Communicating with Reuters via the online messaging app Tox, the Lockbit representative confirmed the ransom payment, signaling the resolution of the deal. The aftermath of the attack left ICBC's U.S. broker-dealer owing BNY Mellon a substantial $9 billion, surpassing its net capital by a significant margin.

The cyber intrusion's scope was extensive, resulting in a blackout that impacted ICBC's corporate email functionality. Reuters reported that employees had to switch to Google mail for communication.

Zhiwei Ren, a portfolio manager at Penn Mutual Asset Management, noted, "The market is mostly back to normal now," highlighting the rapid recovery after the ransomware disruption.

This incident amplifies concerns about the resilience of the $26 trillion U.S. Treasury market, a pivotal component of global finance. Regulators are expected to closely scrutinize the situation.

As of Monday, the U.S. Treasury Department had not issued a comment on the matter. The Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center, a cybersecurity group for the financial industry, underscored the importance of firms adhering to established protocols for sharing information on such incidents.

A spokesperson emphasized, "Ransomware remains one of the top threat vectors facing the financial sector."

In the wake of this cyber attack, the financial industry faces a crucial moment to reassess and bolster its security measures to safeguard against escalating cyber threats.

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