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Commercial Bank of Ethiopia loses USD 42 million

A group of customers, including students, recently took advantage of a technical incident to steal over 40 million USD from a bank in Ethiopia. The problem was caused by a « routine system update and inspection » rather than a cyber attack, Ethiopia’s central bank said in a statement. In all, over 25,000 illegal transactions may have been carried out during the bug, with sums averaging around $1,600.

The Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE), the country’s largest commercial bank, experienced a technical incident on March 16, 2024. The computer bug allowed customers, particularly students, to withdraw or transfer to other accounts sums of money far in excess of their balances. The losses incurred by the bank amounted to 2.4 billion Ethiopian birr, or 42 million USD.

« The majority of Ethiopian commercial bank funds belong to the bank’s customers. The bank’s capital and shareholders’ equity are merely the countervalue of the guarantee of the trust that customers place in the bank, which means that the banking management platform needs to be secure, at the risk of weakening the savings or deposits of users at the bank ».

Honoré Justin MONDOMOBE, Economic Intelligence ExpertCameroon

The Ethiopian commercial bank reacted by freezing as far as possible all illegal transactions (over 25,000) to limit the financial consequences. Asserting that the loss suffered was minimal in relation to total assets, the bank’s CEO, Abe Sano, denied a cyber attack and issued statements encouraging customers to return any money unduly withdrawn, specifying that no legal action would be taken.

« In the context of Ethiopian commercial banking, this could even lead to the closure of the bank, or even worse, to the non-return of money owed to the bank’s customers. Hence the need for every bank to intervene on a massive scale to secure banking platforms in an African and international context riddled with cybercrime. To begin with, we need double or triple parameter control systems ».

Honoré Justin MONDOMOBE, Economic Intelligence ExpertCameroon

With over 38 million account holders, the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia has been in existence since 1963. Faced with this crisis, which leaves the outcome in doubt, the bank has set up an online platform to facilitate the collection of funds.


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