Banks and financial institutions are key targets for cyber attacks for obvious reasons: they hold the most sensitive personal information for their customers along what they value the most – their money. It’s also no secret that cyber crime is at an all-time high right now, especially within the financial services industry. Last year, banks from all over the world were hit by hackers including Tesco bank, where hackers stole over 2 million euros were stolen from 20,000 customer accounts and DDoS attacks that brought banks like HSBC to a standstill.
Today, some of the largest banks have decided to combat cyber crime in a similar way as the military, by using “cyber ranges”, or virtual environments where real cyber attacks are launched on replicas of their actual IT systems. “Special forces in the military train with live bullets shooting around them, so when and if they’re in the time of battle, they’re not ducking and covering because of these loud banging noises,” said Rich Baich, Wells Fargo’s chief information security officer. “A cyber range is the same thing – your machine is actually being attacked. It’s no longer theoretical.”
In the past, banks would run desktop simulations that focused on who would call whom in the event of a major cyber attack. “It’s now emerged to a cyber range, a cybersimulation that allows those cyberwarriors to respond to real-life infections and malware, strengthen their skills, improve the controls in their environment and get ready for what may come one day from a malicious or nation-state actor,” Baich said. “In a cyber range, you take real action, and since it’s a virtual environment, it will not impact production systems.”
The idea has been rolled out within some of the largest financial institutions across the globe, but has not yet reached smaller and mid-sized banks due to the cost of forming special teams for this purpose. Cybersecurity professionals have very specific skillsets and to further train a team of specialists for emergency exercises would mean additional costs.
That’s why Baich believes the industry should create a cyber range that all banks could use, perhaps hosted by the Financial Services Information sharing and Analysis Center (FS-IAC), the industry’s cyber threat information-sharing hub. FS-ISAC already develops and participates in cyber exercises, such as the “Hamilton Series” cybersecurity tabletop simulation exercises sponsored by the U.S. Treasury Department. In addition, it runs an exercise for hundreds of financial institutions called the Cyber-Attack Against Payment Systems or CAPS and is exploring the use of cyber ranges.
Find out more about FS-IAC here.