BOV resumes some operations post-cyberattack

Bank of Valletta headquarters in Santa Venera. (source: Wikimedia Commons/Continentaleurope)

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After what the bank tagged as “rigorous overnight testing”, Bank of Valletta (BOV) announced this morning that it resumed a number of its services during the night. The announcement comes after the bank was forced to shut down services due to a reported hacking attempt.

“Customers may now once again make use of BOV services through the Bank’s branch network across Malta and Gozo, ATMs, Internet Banking, Mobile Banking and by making use of their BOV cards when effecting purchases. Payments to third parties is currently the only service not yet activated. Developments in this regard will be communicated through future press releases,” the statement issued by BOV says.

BOV says the customer deposits and customer accounts of the clients stayed unaffected by the cyber attack, adding that the bank’s contingency plan and preventive measures safeguarded the bank, customers and stakeholders.

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Upon apologising for the inconvenience, the bank asks for the patience and support of the general public and media. At the same time BOV thanks its internal and external staff for their hard work in this matter.

“The bank reminds its customers to be wary of any requests for their personal or account details. Bank of Valletta will never ask for customer details through any channel such as social media, emails or telephone. Should there be any such requests, customers are to contact the Bank’s Customer Service Centre on +356 2131 2020,” the bank statement adds.

Service shutdown due to cyberattack

BOV announced early Wednesday morning that the institution’s system fell victim to a hacking attempt, and operations needed to be shut down. The breach was discovered during reconciliations the bank regularly performs.

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After running investigations in the matter, BOV found that eleven payments had been initiated to foreign payment accounts in a total value of €13m, the Malta Independent reported. BOV immediately requested the international banks involved to halt transactions.

Later on Wednesday, Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat confirmed that the attack falsified transfers in euros, American dollars and British pound sterling — with a total worth of €13m — to foreign banks in the UK, the US, Czech Republic and Hong Kong, according to another report by the Malta Independent.

Answering questions by Opposition Leader Adrian Delia, PM Muscat said that the money of the bank’s clients “was safe”, and an internal enquiry will be called for. Mr Delia said he considers the hacking attempt as an attack against the whole country.

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The Malta Independent notes that as BOV accounts for approximately half of the country’s transactions, the short hiatus in bank services can have an impact on Malta’s economy both domestically and abroad.

The cyberattack is followed by police investigations, as well as a Magisterial enquiry.