UK regulator warns banks about potential Russian-sponsored cyber attack

As the standoff over Ukraine’s future continues, the UK’s financial regulator has advised banks to enhance and test their defences against potential Russian-sponsored cyber attacks.

Two CEOs who got a “dear CEO” letter from the Financial Conduct Authority, large banks with operations in the UK have been cautioned about the increased dangers posed by Russia’s build-up of more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine, according to the Financial Times.

According to the letter’s recipients, regulators warned that if an invasion of Ukraine results in penalties against Russian companies or oligarchs with ties to Vladimir Putin, the financial sector might be targeted for retaliatory cyber assaults.

What they are saying about the potential cyber attack

UK foreign secretary, Liz Truss has pledged to implement strong measures and broaden the extent of Russian assets that can be targeted in the UK, including the possible seizure of London mansions owned by Russian billionaires.

“We have all received multiple formal warnings about Ukraine . . . [but] firms should be doing it anyway and need not require regulator prompting,” one of the recipients of the letter said, adding that his bank had already conducted exercises to test responses to an attack.

A senior official at a major international bank stated that the bank was on high alert for potential cyber threats.

British security organizations, such as the National Cyber Security Centre, have also notified systemically important lenders in the UK with a similar warning.

“As you’d expect, we’re contacting firms to highlight the National Cyber Security Centre’s statement that organisations should bolster their cyber security resilience,” the FCA said in a statement. It added that all companies it regulates should look at their cyber security.

The European Central Bank has also been consulting with the banks it supervises about their preparations in case of an attack, but has so far stopped short of issuing a formal written warning, according to a person familiar with the matter.

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