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Russian Central Bank Says Hackers Stole $31 Million; FSB Warns Of Plot

Russian Central Bank Governor Elvira Nabiullina speaks during a news conference in Moscow, September 16, 2016

Russia’s Central Bank said hackers stole more than $31 million from correspondent accounts, as Russia's main security agency warned of cyberattacks aimed at destabilizing the country’s banking system.

The bank's announcement, December 2, was the latest example of growing number of cyber attacks that have targeted financial institutions worldwide.

Central Bank official Artyom Sychyov revealed the losses at a briefing in Moscow, saying that the hackers had attempted to steal about 5 billion rubles (US$78 million).

A bank report released earlier December 2 described hackers breaking into accounts there by faking a client's credentials, but provided few other details.

Also December 2, the Federal Security Service said it had uncovered the plot that aimed to destabilize the Russian banking system.

The service, known as the FSB, did not identify the culprits behind the alleged plot, but said the computer servers involved were located in the Netherlands and were registered to Ukrainian web-hosting company BlazingFast.

Тhe statement said the attacks had been set to allegedly begin December 5 and would be accompanied by a stream of text messages and posts on social networks containing claims of an imminent collapse of Russia's major banks and the financial system's breakdown.

It said the attack would target several dozen Russian cities.

The director of Kyiv-based BlazingFast, Anton Onoprichuk, said no intelligence agency had been in touch with his company. He also said he was waiting for more information so the company could investigate.

It appeared likely the two announcements—by the Central Bank and the FSB—were coordinated, though that could not be independently confirmed.

The theft, and the alleged plot, come amid growing number of hacks and cyberattacks targeting institutions around the world, some committed by private individuals, others by government-sponsored cyber groups.

After the U.S. government publicly accused the Russian government of involvement in the hack of Democratic party officials, U.S. intelligence later promised countermeasures.

Vice President Joe Biden said in October "we're sending a message" to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"It will be at the time of our choosing, and under the circumstances that will have the greatest impact," he warned.

With reporting by Reuters

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