‘War game’ tests banks defences against cyber crime

A cyber attack on financial markets was played out in one of London’s historic halls yesterday in a “war game” simulation designed to test the City of London’s defences against online saboteurs.

About 100 bankers, regulators, government officials and market infrastructure providers gathered to take part in an exercise dubbed “Waking Shark II” at Plaisterers’ Hall, the historic home of the plastering industry and more typically a venue for banquets and conferences.

Regulators and companies are growing increasingly concerned about the threat of cyber crime to the banking system, including the impact of co-ordinated online assaults or hacking attacks on specific lenders. The Bank of England has told banks to strengthen their defences against cyber attacks.

One London-listed company incurred losses of £800m (€950m) in a cyber attack several years ago, according to British security services.

Yesterday’s five and a half hour event involved simulations designed to test how well banks and other market players communicate and coordinate with authorities and each other.

One of the simulations featured a cyber attack by a fake foreign government and a denial-of-service attack, which makes network resources unavailable to users, a source at the exercise revealed.

The test was described as a “productive exercise” which left participants better equipped to deal with a real-life attack.

The event, one of the largest of its kind in the world, follows a similar large-scale simulation in New York this year and comes amid heightened fears over the threat from hacking and cyber attacks.

“This is a good opportunity to iron out any flaws now before our cyber defences are tested in anger,” said Stephen Bonner, a partner in KPMG’s Information Protection and Business Resilience team.

Richard Horne, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers who specialises in cyber security, said the exercise was useful but the real challenge lay in co-ordinating across the industry to make sure a crisis scenario is never reached.

“It will take a lot of detailed technical work and testing, coordinated across the industry, to really understand all the interdependencies and develop meaningful containment and recovery plans.”


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