A deep-dive into the audacious attempt by a trans-global criminal organisation to steal a billion dollars from the Bangladesh Central Bank, highlighting the vulnerability of even the world’s biggest corporations in cyberspace.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2023
Why post a letter, when you can send an email at the click of a button? Why write a cheque, when you can send a wire transfer instantaneously? Why rob a bank at gunpoint when you can do it from behind the safety of a computer screen?
Debates, elections, wars; they are won now as much in cyberspace as they are in the real world. Billion Dollar Heist looks at a particular instance of cyber activity in which a group of hackers known only as “The Lazarus Group” plotted to steal just shy of a billion dollars from the Bangladeshi Central Bank, capitalising on the bank’s relatively lax security. The film sets out to retell the happenings of that fateful weekend, whilst offering an extensive history of cybercrime and the chaos that it can, and potentially will, inflict. It’s a fascinating depiction of how humankind is becoming increasingly reliant on a complex web of online spaces to carry out the most essential of societal tasks.
The thieves waited for almost a year after gaining initial access to the bank’s servers before enacting their plan over Chinese New Year and a US Federal holiday, an impeccably timed criminal masterstroke that essentially doubled their window of opportunity. Had they been able to hold their nerve a little longer, and not been scuppered by something as trivial as a spelling mistake, they would have gotten away with a lot more than the reported $81 million that was funnelled through the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation in Manila.
Watching video footage of the hapless security guards teeming over hours of footage to make sure no one had actually gotten into the bank is borderline farcical. That the theft took place across multiple banks in several different countries goes to prove the vulnerability of even the biggest of fish in the increasingly murky pond of cyberspace. — Matt Bloomfield