Between 2011 and 2015, the U.S. Federal Reserve detected more than 50 cyber breaches in its computer systems, Reuters reported. Of these breaches, several were described internally as “espionage,” coming from foreign hackers or spies, as the Fed’s computer systems play a “critical role in global banking and hold confidential information on discussions about monetary policy that drives financial interests.” While many of these cybersecurity reports were heavily redacted by Fed officials to keep security procedures secret, Reuters was able to obtain the information through a Freedom of Information Act request. However, the records obtained only represent a small sliver of all cyber-attacks on the Fed because the report only included cases involving the Board of Governors, a federal agency subject to public records laws. Many more data breaches could have occurred at the central bank’s 12 privately owned regional branches.
What’s more, four hacking incidents in 2012 were deemed “acts of espionage” during a time when the Federal Reserve was buying enormous amounts of bonds. The release of this information comes at a scary time, as cybersecurity practices at central banks are under scrutiny since hackers stole $81 million from a Bangladesh bank account at the New York Federal Reserve In February. While it is unclear if the espionage incidents involved foreign governments, security analysts said foreign governments gain invaluable information from these hacks – China and Russia are currently “major players in the $13.8 trillion federal debt market where Fed policy plays a big role in setting interest rates.” This also comes at a sensitive time for the Fed, which has been increasing aid for the struggling U.S. economy by purchasing large amounts of U.S. government debt and mortgage-backed securities.