The issue of cyber-security is an increasingly prevalent one, while it also has topical relevance given the discovery that Russian government-sponsored hacking groups had breached the Democratic Party’s firewalls during the election campaign. While the U.S have retaliated by expelling 35 Russian diplomats who were thought to have acted as intelligent agents inside the Whitehouse, the events have reaffirmed that even supposedly strong and secure entities can be accessed by cyber-criminals.
Take the financial sector, for example, which has become increasingly vulnerable to cyber-attacks over the course of the last decade. The latest of these came in November, when an attack on the Tesco Bank saw criminals steal £2.5 million from more than 9,000 customer accounts. This is a staggering some of money, while the incident itself raises considerable questions about whether or not UK and European banks are adequately protected against a contemporary and increasingly sophisticated threat.
Why the Financial Sector is Being Urged to Increase its Cyber Defences
This attack, and others like it, have increased calls for British Intelligence agencies to protect the financial sector against escalating cyber-crime. More specifically, the parliament’s Treasury Committee asked for a greater focus on domestic and international cyber-attacks, while also suggesting that there should be clearer lines of communication and accountability between UK agencies and financial sector regulators.
Additionally, it is also imperative that financial regulators have the practical tools that enable them to negate the threat posed by increasingly sophisticated cyber-criminals, who have the technical ability to breach old, outdated or potentially under-resourced defences. This does not only apply to banks either, as online trading platforms such as Forex.com also see millions transacted on a daily basis and remain vulnerable to hackers. The key is for these platforms to adapt to the threat that currently faces them, so that they can safeguard their customer’s money and reduce their own level of risk in the future.
Clearly, the lucrative nature of these financial entities, the rise of mobile technology and the lack of adequate defences continue to drive a clear need for improvement. These are not the only issues, however, as legacy systems and human error can also breach the defences that are supposed to protect the financial sector in the UK. With public confidence having also been eroded by a slew of cyber-attacks, government agencies and regulators must act quickly if they are to cope with an increasingly Omni-potent threat.
The Last Word
The recent cyber conflict between the U.S. and Russia has also raised concerns about state-sponsored hacks, which in turn have been exacerbated by the rise of independent activist groups that have the resources and expertise to breach existing defences. This makes the need for action slightly more pressing, as it creates a more sophisticated and powerful enemy that can potentially wreak havoc within the British and global financial sectors. Regardless of how the cyber-threat evolves over time, UK intelligence agencies must make cyber-security a primary focus once 2017 begins in earnest.