The International Monetary Fund, which manages the money of many a nation around the world, was recently the victim of what has been described as a "large and sophisticated" attack on its systems. It isn't yet clear how bad the damage is.

The breach certainly comes at a bad time, as the fund was only just rocked by the sexual assault charges against its former director Dominique Strauss-Kahn last month. However, the attack might have taken place even before said charges, though an official statement has yet to be made. The hackers responsible could, then, have had access to very serious information for some time:

Because the fund has been at the center of economic bailout programs for Portugal, Greece and Ireland - and possesses sensitive data on other countries that may be on the brink of crisis - its database contains potentially market-moving information. It also includes communications with national leaders as they negotiate, often behind the scenes, on the terms of international bailouts. Those agreements are, in the words of one fund official, "political dynamite in many countries." It was unclear what information the attackers were able to access.

The attack was apparently so serious that the World Bank cut the connection that allows the two organizations to share data.

The IMF is only the most recent example of a large corporate entity being made vulnerable by cyber mischief. Both Sony and Lockheed Martin have fallen victim to wayward hackers in recent months. The fund has denied, however, any connection to the RSA SecurID break-in that compromised Lockheed back in March. [NYT via BoingBoing]