Foreign currency firm Travelex held to ransom by cyber criminals

A cyber attack on foreign exchange company Travelex has led to the firm turning off all its computers and taking down its website.

The crisis has also impacted on services for big name companies Virgin Money, Sainsbury’s Bank and First Direct who all use Travelex for foreign exchange transactions.

It is believed that hackers launched their attack on Travelex on New Year’s Eve. It is understood they are demanding a ransom to restore IT systems and preserve customer data.

However, it appears that Travelex are attempting to call the attackers’ bluff by rebuilding all their systems, including a new website.

Whatever the outcome, the foreign exchange experts are still likely to lose money as they are currently having to carry out all work using good old fashioned pen and paper.

And the impact on the company’s reputation also needs to be considered, given the nature of the business and the statement from third parties, for example, First Direct has released a statement which says its foreign currency service has been hit due to an “issue with provider Travelex.”

Security researcher Kevin Beaumont told the BBC on 7 January: “The public response from Travelex has been shockingly bad. The Travelex UK website still only says ‘planned maintenance’, a week after the problems began – many customers will be completely unaware hackers gained access to their network, and allegedly their personal data.

“Travelex have a responsibility to clearly communicate with customers and business partners the gravity of the situation.”

Travelex says it is working with police and has deployed teams of IT specialists and external cyber security experts who have been working continuously. It has given an assurance that no customer details have been compromised.

The Metropolitan Police is leading the investigation into the attack, with the Force revealing that it’s Cyber Crime Team were contacted on 2  January, 2020.

Travelex’s decision to take down its site has meant the large network of other firms that use its services cannot sell currency online.

Virgin Money’s site showed an error message, which said: “Our online, foreign currency purchasing service is temporarily unavailable due to planned maintenance. The system will be back online shortly.”

Sainsbury’s Bank said its online travel money services were unavailable, although it said customers could still buy travel money in its stores. In a statement to the BBC, the bank said: “We’re in close contact with Travelex so that we can resume our online service as soon as possible.”