Banking Cyber-attacks could bring world economy to a halt

Cyber-Crime
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Recent attacks give a glimpse of the sort of cyber-assault that could bring the world economy to a halt. Better defences are needed

THIS May Anonymous, a network of activists, briefly hacked into Greece’s central bank and warned in a YouTube message that: “Olympus will fall…This marks the start of a 30-day campaign against central-bank sites across the world.” The warning struck a raw nerve.

The financial system is little more than a set of promises between people and institutions. If these are no longer believed the whole house of cards will collapse and people will take their money and run. That happened in 2008 because of bad credit decisions; but the same could unfold via a sophisticated cyber-attack. Processes designed to make banking safer have created new vulnerabilities: large amounts of money flow through certain key bits of infrastructure. If such systemic institutions were compromised, a panic similar to those in 2008 could quickly spread.

Cyber-attacks are rapidly growing, and financial services are a favoured target of thieves and people intent on causing chaos. The rise in attacks on individual banks, mostly to steal money or information or to shut down the system for the hell of it (often using so-called denial-of-service attacks), is worrying enough. But two recent attacks signal a move from simple “Bonnie and Clyde” crimes to a new “Ocean’s Eleven” sophistication.

Adapted from Economist

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