After a surprise cyberattack, the world's largest bank had to shuffle a USB stick around Manhattan to do business

Keanu Reeves about to pull down a VR headset
(Image credit: Columbia/TriStar)

First reported by Bloomberg (readers may encounter a paywall), the US unit of the Industrial and Commerce Bank of China⁠—the world's largest by total assets⁠—was struck by a cyberattack late Wednesday, forcing it to conduct business via messenger carrying a USB stick with transaction details.

The likely culprit was Lockbit, a Russia-linked organization which has previously hacked Boeing, ION Trading UK, and the British Royal Mail, continuing a trend of high-profile cybersecurity breaches at major companies like the ones suffered by Nvidia in recent years.

The ICBC breach seems to have occurred late on Wednesday, with the bank subsequently responding to the breach and publicly disclosing it on Thursday, all while conducting some essential US Treasury trades by messenger while it sorted out the infected systems. The affected ICBC Financial Services unit alone had $23.5 billion worth of assets at the end of 2022.

Bloomberg's reporting understandably focuses on the market impact and context behind the hack, but it's tragically light on details about the USB trading messenger stuff. I'm sorry, but this is about as close to Johnny Mnemonic as our lame-o version of the cyberpunk dark future's gonna get, and I want to know everything. To take a page from Limited Run Games, forever physical, baby.

In my mind palace, I'm imagining some hapless ICBC intern fresh out of Harvard's Jordan Belfort School of Making Oodles of Cash In Our Byzantine Financialized Economy going on a slapstick adventure through lower Manhattan, something like Peter Parker trying to deliver a pizza in Spider-Man 2. No, not that Spider-Man 2, the other one. No, not that one either, I'm talking about the good one.

Associate Editor

Ted has been thinking about PC games and bothering anyone who would listen with his thoughts on them ever since he booted up his sister's copy of Neverwinter Nights on the family computer. He is obsessed with all things CRPG and CRPG-adjacent, but has also covered esports, modding, and rare game collecting. When he's not playing or writing about games, you can find Ted lifting weights on his back porch.