The European Central Bank (ECB) headquarters in Frankfurt.

Frankfurt - Hackers tried to extort money from the European Central Bank (ECB) after they stole about 20 000 email addresses from one of the bank's databases, it said on Thursday.

The hacking of the bank's distribution lists for journalists and those participating in events organised by the Frankfurt-based bank emerged after it was contacted by someone asking for money for the return of the addresses.

“The theft came to light after an anonymous email was sent to the ECB seeking financial compensation for the data,” the bank said in a statement.

“No internal systems or market-sensitive data were compromised,” it said, adding that the database was part of its public website and was separate from any of its internal systems.

“The database serves parts of the ECB website that gather registrations for events such as ECB conferences and visits,” it said. The bank said it is contacting people whose email addresses or other data might have been compromised and all passwords have been changed on the system as a precaution.

“German police have been informed of the theft, and an investigation has started,” it said. - Sapa-dpa