Wall Street business continuity testing against cyber threat underway

18 July 2013

Wall Street banks and financial institutions (FIs) are testing their business continuity planning (BCP) systems and procedures today against a cyber-attack scenario.

More than 50 FIs and government bodies are involved in the BCP tests today, according to reports in the ‘FT’, which explained how a wave of fictitious computer hackers in an elaborate simulation known as Quantum Dawn 2 will have to be fought off. The first Quantum Dawn test scenario was run a year and half ago. Organised by the Financial Services Sector Coordinating Council, it attracted only half as many participants.

This latest test is being run by the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) industry group. The cyber security drill runs from 9am to 2.30pm today in New York, US, and involves all the major Wall St banks and government bodies such as the US Treasury, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Department of Homeland Security in a war games-type scenario where malicious cyber-attacks have to be fought off.

A number of stock exchanges have been targeted in recent years, representing a threat to the smooth operation of global financial markets and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against banks are becoming increasingly common, which makes this test timely. According to Karl Schimmeck, vice-president of financial services operations at SIFMA: “These are the risks, so we want to make sure we’re practised and ready.”

Deloitte, the accounting and consulting firm, will produce a report evaluating the results of the cyber-attack simulation and distribute some ‘recommended lessons’ for the future.

A similar resiliency testing exercise is expected to be run in mid-November but the BCP scenario then will be for a pandemic; this time testing Wall Street’s ability to respond to an outbreak of the H7N9 bird flu and the MERS coronavirus that has been circulating in the Middle East.

A similar pandemic test was run in the City of London before the 2008 financial crash, but since the onset of the crash such tests have tended to be relegated to the bottom of the ‘to do’ list. Whether there return in the US means a return to normality must be open to debate, but it is wise to adhere to the old saying of ‘forewarned is forearmed’ when it comes to BCP.

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