Republicans raise hacking fears over new Treasury financial data office

Republicans raise hacking fears over new Treasury financial data office

Republican lawmakers have rounded on a new Treasury office created under Dodd-Frank to collect financial data, calling it "Orwellian" and warning it could prove a prime target for hackers.

The Office of Financial Research (OFR) is being established to improve the quality of financial data available to policymakers in a bid to help avert a repeat of the 2008 crisis.

It will have subpoena power to collect any information it deems necessary from any "financial company" to help assist another Dodd-Frank child, the Financial Stability Oversight Council, identify systemic threats to market stability.

At an oversight hearing in Washington, the investigating subcommittee's chairman, Representative Randy Neugebauer warned the office will have "unprecedented, real-time access to a wealth of personal and proprietary corporate data - all in the name of an unattainable goal of preventing the next financial crisis".

Meanwhile, Financial Services Committee chairman Spencer Bachus argued that the wealth of data held by the OFR makes it a "target rich environment" for hackers and questioned the body's ability to protect sensitive information, raising the spectre of WikiLeaks and recent attacks on the likes of Citi.

Representative Jeb Hensarling drew on both fears, claiming: "This office is a hacker's dream and a civil libertarian's nightmare. And I do not see a compelling reason for its existence."

Richard Berner, the former Morgan Stanley economist charged with setting the OFR up moved to reassure the politicians, insisting "the OFR will not collect data for collection's sake".

Comments: (1)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 18 July, 2011, 08:36Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

It is certainly important to discuss the pro's and con's of the suggested collecting of financial data.

However, trying to prevent the next financial crisis is for sure a goal worth striving for, and dismissing it as "unattainable" from the outset is not the right signal.

Furthermore, the undeniable fact that contemporary mainstream IT technology gets hacked very often is no valid reason not to collect data if it makes sense doing so. There are more secure platforms than the currently prevailing ones ...