Keeping E-Money Safe from Hackers Keeps Bankers Up at Night


Securing the cash stacked in a bank vault is one thing. Keeping money safe in the electronic universe is quite another matter. Cybersecurity threats to e-money are what poses the biggest challenge for bankers.

Hackers and other cybercriminals don’t discriminate against whom they attack and no industry sector or organization is off limits. High-profile attacks against hospitals, blood banks and state voter databases highlights just some of the institutions that hackers have targeted throughout 2016. In those breaches, sensitive consumer information was stolen. Whether it will be used for identity theft or another cyberattack remains to be seen. 

The financial services industry is no stranger to cyberattacks. Thieves were able to hack into Bangladesh’s central bank’s account at the U.S. Federal Reserve in February 2016 and took $81 million. The hackers compromised various banks' "local environments" and used the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) interbank messaging system "to execute the thefts in question," a SWIFT official told Bloomberg BNA.

Recent efforts to increase bank’s cybersecurity infrastructure and an increased focus on cyberthreat information sharing may have hackers looking for easier target to obtain valuable personal data. The U.S. Department of the Treasury Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) recently released an advisory for banks urging them to “play an important role in protecting the U.S. financial systems from” cyberthreats. The advisory tells banks to share cyberthreat information—including internet protocol addresses, virtual-wallet information and device identifiers—with appropriate law enforcement agencies and throughout the financial services industry. 

Other organizations, from regulators to inter-industry groups, have joined the caused to fight cyberattacks against banks of all sizes. The Group of 7—Canada, France, Germany, the U.K., Italy and the U.S.--financial leaders recently endorsed non-binding cybersecurity best practices. The best practices are aimed to “address cyber risks facing the financial sectors from both entity-specific and system-wide perspectives,” U.S. Treasury Deputy Secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin, co-chair of the G-7 Cyber Expert Group, said.

Additionally, the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency recently announced a notice of proposed rulemaking that would require banks with $50 billion or more in assets to take additional steps to protect against cyberattacks. The regulators may also put the responsibility of cybersecurity oversight on senior leaders at the banks. 

The global interconnected financial system has been a prime target for hackers. But with banks and financial regulators looking to shore up industry cybersecurity, hackers may want find an easier target to monetize their efforts.