EU and UK step up efforts to protect banks from cybercrime

News by Doug Drinkwater

The European Union and the British Bankers' Association have announced independent plans to tackle cyber-criminals that target banks and other financial institutions.

Yesterday Europol's European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) announced that it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the European Banking Federation (EBF) – which represents 4,500 banks and building societies in the region – to “intensify cooperation between law enforcement and the financial sector”.

Just twenty-four hours later the British Bankers' Association (BBA) revealed that 12 government and law enforcement agencies are to use a “pioneering financial crime alert system” to warn banks on the latest threats in cyber-crime and fraud.

The former is expected to see EC3 and EBF exchange expertise, statistics and other strategy information, including data on the latest cyber threats and new malware and evolving means of payment fraud.

Such sharing is not unique between law enforcement and financial institutions, where previous collaborative action has seen organised criminal groups come to be investigated, prosecuted and jailed for skimming and forging cards.

Troels Oerting, head of the European Cybercrime Centre, called for more industry collaboration when meeting with in Amsterdam last month and said in a statement that the agreement is about making life more difficult for cyber-criminals – and easier for bankers.

"Today marks an important day for both EU law enforcement and the banking industry. We have agreed to intensify mutual cooperation, respecting relevant national legislation, to jointly enhance our ability to prevent, prosecute and disrupt cyber-crime against the financial sector,” said Oerting.

“This is more than a ceremonial gesture - this is the establishment of a trusted relationship aimed at achieving tangible results that will make life more difficult for criminals and life easier for the banking sector and all of us who use these important services".

Oerting signed the MOU with Wim Mijs, chief executive of the European Banking Federation, and he added that this was the latest step in banks working together with law enforcement.

"Our members already cooperate intensely with their own, national police authorities in order to fight financial cybercrime. Our partnership with Europol now adds a European dimension to this important work. International cooperation between banks and law enforcement bodies is essential because it is clear that criminals know no borders."

Reflecting on the news, independent adviser and former head of payments at Barclays, Neira Jones, said that collaboration should be encouraged in the sector.

“There is not enough cooperation across industries and sectors and law enforcement, so the more initiatives like this, the better. After all, you need a network to fight a network,” she said in an email to SC.

Meanwhile, one day after the announcement, the British Bankers' Association (BBA) announced plans for a financial crime alert system that would be levied by various government departments and other agencies to keep banks abreast of the latest threats.

The BBA intends to launch the Financial Crime Alerts Service (FCAS) so that the financial crime professionals can spot emerging problems and new trends. The system – which is due to go live in early 2015 – will include warnings on cyber and e-crime, fraud, terrorist financing and money laundering.

Scott McVicar, managing director for cyber security at technology provider BAE Systems Applied Intelligence said in an email that this real-time information will be vital. 

“Real-time intelligence, combined with providing the ability for the BBA to share that intelligence in a collaborative manner with all of its members, is vital if the financial services industry is to beat cyber criminals and fraudsters at their own game.”

BBA chief executive Anthony Brown added that the system could be a ‘powerful weapon' in deterring criminals.

“This alerts system is a powerful new weapon against fraudsters, cyber criminals and other crooks intent on stealing our customers' money.

“Receiving real-time alerts from such domestic and international bodies, including the National Crime Agency and 11 other government and law enforcement agencies, will be vital intelligence for the army of staff banks have already hired to combat these threats.”

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