Italy’s top bank, UniCredit SpA, is yet another victim in a series of cyberattacks exploiting vulnerabilities in the financial services industry. Criminals made off with biographical and loan data from 400,000 UniCredit loan accounts after gaining access to the bank’s computer system through one of UniCredit’s third-party commercial partners. The series of data breaches was discovered after an internal IT check discovered that some of the third-party partner’s users were accessing sensitive UniCredit data.
UniCredit was quick to point out in a statement to its users that “No data, such as passwords allowing access to customer accounts or allowing for unauthorised transactions, has been affected” but the bank noted that “some other personal data and [International Bank Account Numbers] might have been accessed.” Such data, even if useless for gaining access to UniCredit accounts, could still be used to steal customer identities or design customized “spear” phishing attacks that might fool a victim into providing more sensitive data.
While security breaches at UniCredit were discovered a few weeks ago, the bank disclosed that one breach occurred as early as September 2016. The nearly year-long gap between the first data breach and its discovery underscores the importance of strict data protection rules and procedures in the financial industry. Such rules and procedures are the aim of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, which will go into effect in May 2018, and is designed to harmonize data protection laws across Europe.