Bank of England to test banks' security in operation Resilient Shield

As attacks on the UK's financial institutions increase, The Bank of England is getting ready to test out the bank's preparedness for such an event.

The Bank of England is rolling out it's new series of cyber-defence simulations
The Bank of England is rolling out it's new series of cyber-defence simulations

The City of London financial institutions' CIO's will soon be feeling the heat as the Bank of England rolls out it's new wargame to test the cyber-resilience of the UK's financial sector.

Banks will be subjected to a series of ‘attacks', designed to spot weaknesses in their network. Any holes found in the defences of the UK's finance industry will be rigorously prodded.

The operation, called Resilient Shield, will be coordinated by the UK's Computer Emergency Response Team, CERT - UK, the team devoted to managing major cyber-security incidents in the UK. The tests will also include US banks and test the communication between governments and  financial institutions.

Obviously, financial institutions are large, desirable targets for cyber-criminals, hacktivists and spies alike. In few places is that more the case than the UK, one of the world's centres of finance.  Some 90 percent of large UK companies reported a breach last year and cyber-criminals are increasingly targeting UK banks and customers.

Sir David Omand, the former director of GCHQ, told senior finance officials in July that their businesses are at major risk of becoming the victim of a geopolitical cyber-attack. Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England also warned the finance sector earlier this year of cyber-crime being a major threat to the City's financial stability.

Richard Brown, director of channels and alliances for Arbor Networks agrees. He told SCMagazineUK.com that “The financial services industry is a critical part of the UK economy and has always been a lucrative target for attackers because of the sheer value of the data held within it – after cloud and hosting providers, financial services are the most common target for DDoS attacks”

The post-game report for Operation Waking Shark II, this new operation's antecedent in spirit if not in name,  stated that, “The lessons learned will not only influence the finance sector's preparedness for a real-life cyber-event, but also serve as an example of how other sectors in the UK's finance industry can test their own capabilities in the future.” But has it really influenced their preparedness? Several reports have shown the cyber-security in the UK's banks is not yet up to scratch or in line with the threats that those institutions regularly face. Several high profile cyber-heists in the last year, have not helped that image.

The software company, Fujitsu, recently released a report with some interesting findings on the UK's financial sector. SC spoke to Rob Norris, UK director of enterprise and cyber-security at Fujitsu. He said that the financial services sector often operates with legacy systems that have been outdated but it's also a sector where the speed and complexity of innovation, like mobile and online banking, is hard to keep up with from a cyber-security point of view.  “CIOs in the banking industry are facing an unenviable challenge” says Norris, but, ”what is paramount is that the industry does not overlook or get complacent about security or place it in the “too big to fix” category. As the number of threats continue to increase exponentially – can the industry afford for it not to be the number one priority?”

Where Waking Shark II and previous industry tests like it have dealt with information sharing and coordination in the wake of a cyber-attack on a state level, the inclusion of US institutions means that Resilient Shield will widen the scope to include transatlantic coordination too. The scheme was announced when Prime Minister David Cameron met US President Barack Obama on a diplomatic visit in January