SOFE Berlin: Cyber security and innovation take centre stage

SOFE Berlin: Cyber security and innovation take centre stage

Payments professionals from across Europe, Middle East and Africa have been gathering in Berlin for Swift's Operations Forum Europe conference to learn first hand how the interbank co-operative is dealing with ongoing security issues and new technology innovations in banking and finance.

Welcoming an assembled 350 delegates from 36 countries across Emea, Swift's head of Emea customer support, Peter De Metsenaere, laid out a three-day programme featuring 64 work session covering 22 topics.

Operating under the theme 'operations, collaboration, excellence', De Mensenaere billed operational excellence as a key differentiator for banks as they grapple with powerful disruptive forces, including cyber threats, new technologies and new entrants.

In the wake of a spate of successful cyber attacks on Swift member banks, including an $81 billion heist on the Bank of Bangladesh, security was very much to the fore in the opening remarks from chief executive officer Gottfried Leibbrandt.

Describing a world "before and after Bangladesh", Leibbrandt said the co-operative "continues to see cases where criminals invade banking systems and obtain credentials".

Nodding to the conference's twin theme of rampant technological innovation, Leibbrandt said: "It's no coincidence that we are seeing the emergence of cyber threats at the same time as we are seeing tremendous technology change. We are living in a world where everything is connected."

Swift has set out a package of proposals aimed at shoring up the industry's defences, from trigger alerts in interface devices - some of which have already helped to strop potential breaches Leibbrandt says - to mandatory self-assessment programmes and random security audits, alongside the proposed delivery of Daily Validation Reports based on Swift's records of customers' messages.

Referencing the value of good hygiene in surgical procedures, Leibbrandt told the assembled delegates that feedback from self-assessment procedures and the introduction of common-sense security measures such as two-factor authentication and virus protection alongside an industry-wide information sharing programme would help nudge the industry in the right direction and control the risk of contagion.

In this way, "your correspondent can check whether you washed your hands before dinner", he says.

"Attacks are not at a standstill," he continues. "This is an industry challenge that we all have to deal with. It will be a multi-year effort."

Cyber-security is set to be a key theme throughout the conference programme, continuing Thursday with a keynote address from James Lyne, global head of security research at Sophos, that will take delegates on a tour of the latest trends in hacking and exploitation, and a concluding plenary on Friday in which Miriam Sinn, senior oversight expert at Deutsche Bundesbank, will join Swift COO Marcel Bronmans and Stephen Gilderdale, head of the banking network's customer security programme, to discuss the value of collaboration in combating the cyber menace.

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