SOFE Berlin: Cyber security worries dominate closing debate

SOFE Berlin: Cyber security worries dominate closing debate

Swift's European operations forum in Berlin ended where it began, with a high-powered debate on the ability of the world's banks to combat an escalating cyber threat.

The final panel session was moderated by Leo Punt, head of Emea services and support at Swift and featured contributions from Miriam Sinn, senior oversight expert at Deutsche Bundesbank, Stephen Gilderdale, head of Swift's customer security programme, and the interbank co-operative's chief operations officer Marcel Bronmans.

To kick things off, Punt asked the assembled audience of operations executives from some of Emea's biggest banks whether they considered cyber threats as one of the top concerns for the financial industry. In a digi-vote, a resounding 86% said yes.

However, a later exercise found that 31% of delegates felt that their institutions had yet to set in place 'adequate' requirements and initiatives for cyber protection.

Miriam Sinn from Deutsche Bundesbank said the most worrying aspect from an oversight perspective was that many institutions hadn't "internalised" their threat defences. "The IT department realises its an issue, but that isn't enough," she said. "It's a question and culture change that has to be addressed throughout the institution from top to bottom and across all departments."

For Swift COO Marcel Bronmans, it was a question of "not if, but when you will be hacked".

Reiterating Sinn's words, he said: "It's not just an IT problem, it's a human problem and processes throughout the business that make us vulnerable."

You can bolt the door, but knowing how to react and respond to a suspected break-in is all important. "We see a different level of readiness of how to deal with a breach or even where to begin to start. This is particularly worrying because each bank operates in an ecosystem where everything is connected.

All agreed that the industry was facing a multi-year threat, characterised by a rapidly mutating technology environment, which in turn requires banks to adopt a continuously evolving approach to security.

Swift is playing its part, providing self-assessment tools for banks to test their own environments and get a view of the level of preparedness of their counterparts. Interface devices through which banks connect to the global messaging network are also being upgraded, offering automated triggers for suspicious transactions and passing the information on to Swift for sharing across the community.

"It would be naive to think we can eradicate the threat," said Stephen Gilderdale, head of Swift's Customer Security Programme. "But we can reduce it to a manageable risk."

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