Cyber- Attacks A Threat To Global Financial Markets

Cyber- Attacks A Threat To Global Financial Markets

Reuters is reporting on a renewed threat to global financial markets: cyber-attacks. In an interview yesterday at the Reuters Financial Regulation Summit, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary Jo White expressed her concern about the volatile state of cybersecurity. She said there are vulnerabilities within the financial system that need to be addressed and that the SEC is working on fixing those problems.

“Cyberspace and its underlying infrastructure are vulnerable to a wide range of risk stemming from both physical and cyber threats and hazards,” according to a statement on the Department of Homeland Security’s website. “Sophisticated cyber actors and nation-states exploit vulnerabilities to steal information and money and are developing capabilities to disrupt, destroy, or threaten the delivery of essential services.” This is referring to both lone hackers and also a relatively new form of terrorism, called cyberterrorism, in which foreign governments actually train segments of their armies to engage in cyberwarfare. The latter kind of cyberterrorism can arguably do more damage as the attacks are carried out with pin-point precision and foreign governments use multi-million dollar budgets to train their attackers.

Cyber-attacks can come in various forms, including, but not limited to viruses, worms or Trojan horses. A cyber- attack against banks or other financial institutions would be especially dangerous as it could shut down operations for an extended period of time and disrupt market trading. The most recent major cyber-attack against a bank occurred in Bangladesh in February, where thieves stole over 80 million dollars from the Central Bank. They attempted to steal a total of nearly 1 billion dollars, but were thwarted by the swift actions of bank employees who noticed a spelling error in the money transfer requests.

The problem is only expected to get worse as more and more financial transactions are completed online, leaving some networks and financial institutions vulnerable to threats. As a result, banks have to hire cybersecurity analysts who are trained to spot areas in networks that are susceptible to intrusions by hackers. Then they can take appropriate measures to safeguard their systems.

The University of Maryland, University College has one of the foremost cybersecurity degree programs in the U.S. In a statement on the school’s website, it said “during a senate hearing in March 2013, the nation's top intelligence officials warned that cyber-attacks and digital spying are the top threat to national security, eclipsing terrorism.”

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