Money & Banking

British banks keep cyber attacks under wraps to protect image

Reuters London | Updated on January 16, 2018 Published on October 14, 2016

banking-security

Britain’s banks are not reporting the full extent of cyber attacks to regulators for fear of punishment or bad publicity, bank executives and providers of security systems say.

Reported attacks on financial institutions in Britain have risen from just five in 2014 to 75 so far this year, data from Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) show.

However, bankers and experts in cyber-security say many more attacks are taking place. In fact, banks are under almost constant attack, Shlomo Touboul, Chief Executive of Israeli-based cyber-security firm Illusive Networks said.

Touboul cites the example of one large global financial institution he works with which experiences more than two billion such “events” a month, ranging from an employee receiving a malicious email to user or system-generated alerts of attacks or glitches.

Machine defences filter those down to 200,000, before a human team cuts that to 200 “real” events a month, he added.

Banks are not obliged to reveal every such instance as cyber attacks fall under the FCA’s provision for companies to report any event that could have a material impact, unlike in the US where forced disclosure makes reporting more consistent.

“There is a grey area...Banks are in general fulfilling their legal obligations but there is also a moral requirement to warn customers of potential losses and to share information with the industry,” Ryan Rubin, UK Managing Director, Security & Privacy at consultant Protiviti, said.

Swift action

Banks are not alone in their reluctance to disclose every cyber attack. Of the five million fraud and 2.5 million cyber-related crimes occurring annually in the UK, only 250,000 are being reported, government data show.

But while saving them from bad publicity or worried customers, failure to report more serious incidents, even when they are unsuccessful, deprives regulators of information that could help prevent further attacks, the sources said.

A report published in May by ‘Marsh’ and industry lobby group TheCityUK concluded that Britain’s financial sector should create a cyber forum comprising bank board members and risk officers to promote better information sharing.

Published on October 14, 2016
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