Six U.S. Senators Urge Obama to Prioritize Cyber at G20 in China

August 29, 2016, 9:46 PM UTC
G20 Turkey Leaders Summit - Welcoming Ceremony
ANTALYA, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 15 : Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (L), US President Barack Obama (C) and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon are seen before the 'Welcoming Ceremony' prior to the G20 Turkey Leaders Summit on November 15, 2015 in Antalya, Turkey. (Photo by Mehmet Ali Ozcan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Photograph by Mehmet Ali Ozcan — Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Six U.S. senators have urged President Barack Obama to prioritize cyber crime at a this weekend’s G20 summit in China in the wake of the $81-million heist from Bangladesh’s central bank, according to a letter obtained by Reuters.

The letter from Sherrod Brown, a senior Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, and five other senators want the U.S. President to press leaders from the world’s biggest economies to commit to a “coordinated strategy to combat cyber-crime at critical financial institutions,” in G20 communiques at the Sept. 4-5 summit in China.

The letter, dated Monday, cites the February incident in which hackers breached Bangladesh Bank’s systems and used the SWIFT banking network to request nearly $1 billion from an account held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Some of the dozens of orders were filled, with much of the lost $81 million disappearing into Philippines casinos.

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“Our financial institutions are connected in order to facilitate global commerce, but cyber criminals—whether independent or state-sponsored—imperil this international system in a way few threats have,” the Democratic senators, headed by Gary Peters of Michigan, wrote in the letter to Obama.

“We strongly urge you to work with your counterparts and prioritize this discussion at the G-20 leaders level in September,” it said of the summit of the 20 top economies to be held in Hangzhou, China.

“These discussions merit attention not only in finance ministries and central banks, but also in executive leadership circles across the globe.”

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Copies of the letter were also sent to Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.

The White House declined to comment specifically on the letter. Asked generally about cyber security at a press conference on Monday, spokesman Josh Earnest said: “I would anticipate that this issue more generally will be on the agenda” when Obama meets Chinese President Xi Jinping, the G20 summit host, later this week.

The letter was also signed by Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), the ranking Democrat on the Senate’s Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry; Mark Warner (D-VA) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM), both members of the Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence; and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

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