Top bankers need to take cyber threat seriously: BoE

Top bankers need to take cyber threat seriously: BoE

Toby Melville

LONDON (Reuters) - Top British bankers and other senior executives in the financial services industry are not taking the risk of cyber attacks seriously enough, financial policymakers at the Bank of England say.

Cyber crime costs the global economy $445 billion a year and the bill is rising, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Banks are particularly vulnerable, despite spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year on cyber defenses. Increasingly sophisticated criminals are trying to steal money or client data, cause havoc in financial markets or score political points.

Minutes of the most recent meetings of the Bank's Financial Policy Committee noted "a tendency among (banking) firms to view cyber threats as a technical problem rather than an issue which merits board-level attention given the evolving nature of cyber threats and the key importance of cyber resilience to continuity of financial services".

Cyber criminals obtained details of 83 million clients from JPMorgan Chase this year while Sony Pictures was hacked in an attack the United States has blamed on North Korea.

The minutes published on Monday showed the Bank of England and some financial service firms were in advanced discussions over taking a voluntary test known as CBEST, in which they would hire hackers to attack them at will in order to test their resilience.

Other major banks and key financial institutions should also take the test as soon as possible, the FPC minutes said.

The FPC also said banks in Britain need to do more than pass health checks on their ability to withstand financial shocks, urging boards to improve the way their companies are run.

Last week, the BoE said Britain's biggest lenders, with the exception of the Co-operative Bank, had passed stress tests of how well prepared they were.

British banks have been embroiled in scandals ranging from attempts to fix benchmark interest and foreign exchange rates to the mis-selling of loan insurance and complex hedging products to small businesses.

"In this environment, the Committee judged that strong, effective and well-informed management and governance arrangements would be essential to rebuild confidence in the banking system," the minutes said.

(Reporting by Matt Scuffham and William Schomberg; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)