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How cyber attackers could target the world’s financial markets

The cyber attackers and threats faced by key financial markets across the world have been exposed by a new report published by BAE Systems and SWIFT.

The study examines the different levels of susceptibility and threat faced by parts of the financial markets. It considers how market infrastructures and participants could be exploited by cyber criminals to penetrate organisations across the securities, trade finance, foreign exchange, and banking and payments market segments.

While the risks in banking and payments are well documented, this study reveals that the securities market is particularly vulnerable. This is due to the large number of participants and infrastructures, as well as the complex interactions involved. Weaknesses can be unknowingly introduced by traders, brokers, investors, other stakeholders – and the systems that all of these participants use. The study also shows how the foreign exchange and trade finance markets are also at risk.

The cyber attacks facing your business

“It’s all too easy to be lulled into a false sense of security, and place too much faith in systems which cyber attackers can exploit. While the threat is greatest in the securities market, every part of the global financial services sector needs to be aware that cyber crime is evolving. Threats are becoming more intelligent, and criminals are increasingly focused on generating an ROA – return on attack – as quickly as possible,” explains Sanjay Samuel, Financial Services Director at BAE Systems.

“There’s a wide range of cyber threats out there, and that’s why a holistic approach is becoming critical. Cyber security is no longer just a technical issue, as attackers are exploiting weaknesses in market operations, people and processes. So security needs to be embedded and coordinated across all levels and sectors of financial services organisations.”

The report analyses the changing threat landscape and explores how the financial sector is exposed to a range of emerging cyber security challenges.

Among the main recommendations proposed are:

  • Securities participants should embrace the value of checks, communication and data to support pre- and post-trade activities and stave off cyber threats.
  • Securities market infrastructures need to collaborate with participants to identify risks in common practices to jointly defend market operations.
  • Banking and payments participants must continue to strengthen security controls while building in protection for upstream systems.
  • Trade finance participants are encouraged to review and manage areas of inherent trust, which are at risk of cyber exploitation.

In an effort to help participants combat cyber fraud, SWIFT launched its Customer Security Programme (CSP) in 2016. This programme has helped its customers across the payments, securities, trade finance and foreign exchange sectors implement security controls identified as critical to defending against, detecting and recovering from cyber attacks.

But with cyber threats evolving and criminals increasingly looking for ways to steal large sums of money at speed, financial organisations are being urged to be more vigilant, and take further steps to address the vulnerabilities outlined in this report.

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