Cyber attacks are one of the most pressing concerns for banking chief executives, according to a new poll.
One day after a cyber theft was revealed to have taken an estimated £650m from financial firms around the world, a global survey of banking and capital markets bosses found that online threats came second only to over-regulation as the biggest perceived danger to the industry.
Of the 175 bosses polled by PwC, 79pc said they were concerned or extremely concerned about cyber threats affecting their company’s growth prospects. This compares to 61pc of chief executives across all industries who said they were worried about online attacks.
“No one can be complacent about cybersecurity and identity theft, as we have watched the data breaches over the last year. They’re widespread, the statistics are frightening,” Beth E Mooney, chairman of chief executive of KeyCorp, said in PwC’s report.
“What we are doing to protect data and our clients, in conjunction with other financial institutions and the government, is one of the most important things, because we are into new territory that has significant consequences.”
Kaspersky Lab, the cybersecurity firm that first reported the £650m theft, said the Carbanak criminal gang had targeted financial institutions in the US, China and throughout Europe.
The firm said the hackers had broken into banks’ virtual networks before spending months installing programmes and collecting data in order to quietly withdraw money.
“These bank heists were surprising because it made no difference to the criminals what software the banks were using. So, even if its software is unique, a bank cannot get complacent,” said Sergey Golovanov, principal security researcher at Kaspersky Lab’s global research and analysis team.
The Cabinet Office, which oversees the UK’s cyber security efforts, said it was difficult to assess the overall damage done to British firms through online attacks. “[B]ased on current research available, the costs of cyber crime could reasonably be assessed to be at least several billion pounds per year,” said a spokesperson.
Aside from the rising threat of cyber attacks, banking chief executives are overwhemingly positive about their prospects over the next three years, with 92pc expecting growth. Meanwhile, 53pc said they were concerned about the threat from new entrants in the market, up from 32pc a year ago.