SEC bills cyber threats as biggest risk to financial markets

SEC bills cyber threats as biggest risk to financial markets

As the world's banks scramble to shore up security in their connections to the Swift interbank payments network, US Securities and Exchanges Commission chair Mary Jo White has described cyber hacking as the biggest risk facing the world's financial markets.

White's assessment of the situation follows the successful $81 million cyber heist perpetrated on the central bank of Bangladesh and a second failed attack on Vietnam's TPBank. In both instances, hackers penetrated defences in bank wire rooms, planting malware to hide evidence of suspicious transactions using fake Swift credentials.

Speaking at a conference organised by Reuters, White said some major exchanges, dark pools and clearing houses had outdated security policies in place that failed to take account of the new risks posed by sophisticated hacking gangs.

Her words echo the comments of CFTC commissioner Christopher Giancarlo in December, who pinpointed cyber warfare as the most pressing issue facing regulatory agencies in the years to come.

JPMorgan Chase, which is no stranger to the perils of cybercrime, is among the first to take action, limiting employee access to the Swift interbank messaging service, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Other US banks are said to be pushing for discussions with Swift over improved security procedures, says Bloomberg, with BITS, the technology and policy division of the bank-backed Financial Services Roundtable identified as a potential broker in the talks.

US banks are not the only ones expressing concern. The Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) is also understood to have invited Swift for a meeting in June to discuss the latest cyber attacks.

Throughout the crisis, Swift has maintained that the core messaging network remains secure, with hackers exploiting lax security controls at member banks.

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