Banks ripe for the next cyberattack

In January this year three major UK banks came under attack. For two full days Lloyds Banking Group, Halifax and Bank of Scotland fought to counter an online attack that saw their systems bombarded by millions of fake requests in a denial of service (DOS) attack. The attack had the potential to block access to more than 20 million British accounts.

This is just one example of the threats that banks around the world face and it comes just a few months after another attack against Tesco bank that compromised 9,000 accounts and cost more than £2.5M ($3.2M).

With Prof Richard Benham, chairman of the National Cyber Management Centre, warning that “a major bank will fail as a result of a cyber-attack in 2017 leading to a loss of confidence and a run on that bank,” the issue of cyber-security in the financial sector has risen in prominence. Recent cyber-attacks on the UK’s NHS and attempted cyber-attacks on Parliament have demonstrated the threat such attacks could pose and emphasised the need to address vulnerabilities. Most experts agree it is not a matter of if but when. The question is: what can be done to prevent such attacks in the current context?

Could financial institutions be the next major target for criminals? Bangladesh $80 million cyber heist shows banks must improve security protocols

Venafi’s Chief Cybersecurity Strategist, Kevin Bocek notes that 2016 saw multiple attempts to hack the SWIFT system, one resulting in an $81 million loss for Bangladesh’s Central Bank and he believes that we are likely to see this trend continue. In the case of the SWIFT hack, the attackers were able to use malware to access the SWIFT user interface, which gave them access to the system and allowed them to conceal fraudulent transfer requests made over SWIFT, hiding the fraud in plain sight. “Future attacks on banks and other financial institutions are likely to follow this pattern, using trusted traffic for a more nefarious purpose,” he says.

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Bianca Wright

Bianca Wright is a UK-based freelance business and technology writer, who has written for publications in the UK, the US, Australia and South Africa. She holds an MPhil in science and technology journalism and a DPhil in Media Studies.

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