Massive ‘war game’ batters London’s banking system with simulated cyber onslaught

A ‘war game’ scenario on Tuesday tested thousands of banking staff across London’s investment banks against the ‘worst case scenario’ – a major cyber attack on stock exchanges.

The simulation – ‘Waking Shark II’ is one of the largest exercises of its kind ever organized in the world, according to a report by Reuters.

The simulated “attack” will test not only security staff and systems, but how executives communicate with other banks, the media and the authorities, as it unfolds on social media.

The exercise will also simulate other scenarios, such as how banks ensure the availability of cash from ATM machines. Staff at banks will work from their  own offices, but the “attacks” will be co-ordinated from a single “war room” with regulators, staff, and officials, according to sources.

The “game” is organized by the Bank of England, the Treasury and Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority and follows a similar exercise two years ago. All three authorities declined to comment, according to The Telegraph.

The first such simulation involved 3,500 people, and simulated “a concerted cyber attack upon the financial sector” targeting wholesale and retail payments, The Telegraph reports. The simulation follows repeated warnings in the UK and elsewhere that banks need to bolster their defenses.

In September, Scott Borg, chief of the U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit, said that he believed manipulation of the financial markets would be the next major target for cybercriminals, according to Computer World.


More than half of securities exchanges around the world faced cyber attacks last year, according to a paper released by the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) and the World Federation of Exchanges (WFE) – as reported by We Live Security here.

“The number of high profile and critical ‘hits’ is also increasing,” says the IOSCO report. “The report warns that underestimation of the severity of this emerging risk may lay open securities markets to a black swan event.”

A survey of 46 exchanges around the world found that 53% had faced cyber attacks – mostly disruptive in nature, rather than financially motivated, and mostly consisting of malware or DDoS attacks. Nearly all – 89% – of those surveyed agreed that cybercrime should be considered a systemic risk.

The report says, “This suggests a shift in motive for cybercrime in securities markets, away from financial gain and towards more destabilizing aims. It also distinguishes cyber – crime in securities markets from traditional crimes against the financial sector e.g. fraud, theft.”

“While cybercrime in securities markets has not had systemic impacts so far, it is rapidly evolving in terms of actors, motives, complexity and frequency.”

The British Waking Shark tests follow a similar exercise conducted in 2011 – and mirror exercises conducted on Wall street, such as a simulated cyber attack with the Hollywood-esque title Quantum Dawn 2 bombarded the defenses of American banks on June 28 – in an exercise designed to test how Wall Street would endure a sustained cyber attack, as reported by We Live Security here.

Created by the trade organization Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), the exercise was built to “test incident response, resolution and coordination processes for the financial services sector and the individual member firms to a street-wide cyber attack.”

Author Rob Waugh, We Live Security

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