BizTech Illos Data Security
Martin Gee for TIME

Hackers Could Have Stolen Nearly $1 Billion If They Hadn’t Made This Dumb Mistake

Mar 10, 2016

It's rare that a typo saves the day. But that was the case last month, when a spelling error helped stop what could've been a nearly $1 billion digital heist.

A group of unknown hackers penetrated Bangladesh's central bank several weeks ago, Reuters reports. The tech-savvy thieves went on to request a series of fraudulent transfers from that bank's account at the New York Federal Reserve to groups in the Philippines and Sri Lanka.

The hackers successfully transferred about $81 million. But the damage could've been far worse were it not for a typo in one of the hackers' transfer requests, says Retuers:

Four requests to transfer a total of about $81 million to the Philippines went through, but a fifth, for $20 million, to a Sri Lankan non-profit organisation was held up because the hackers misspelled the name of the NGO, Shalika Foundation.

Hackers misspelled "foundation" in the NGO's name as "fandation", prompting a routing bank, Deutsche Bank, to seek clarification from the Bangladesh central bank, which stopped the transaction, one of the officials said.

There is no NGO under the name of Shalika Foundation in the list of registered Sri Lankan non-profits. Reuters could not immediately find contact information for the organization.

The total value of the transactions stopped after the typo was discovered totaled as much as $870 million. The message to hackers? Use spellcheck, guys.

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