Wall Street banks learn how to survive in staged cyber attack

Mon Oct 21, 2013 6:46pm EDT
 
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By Lauren Tara LaCapra

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A few months ago, a group of Wall Street banks fashioned a risk-manager's worst nightmare to determine how they would survive. Luckily, it was all pretend.

In a staged simulation called Quantum Dawn 2, bank executives in charge of operations, technology and crisis planning were tasked with detecting how a massive cyber attack was unfolding in the markets - but each one only got to see a tiny red flag waving in a sea of information.

In some cases, a blue-chip stock started to plummet inexplicably. Soon, shocking news about the company hit the market, but unbeknownst to the participant, the news was fake.

For others, trading systems were on the fritz, or government websites stopped functioning. Even basic technology such as telephones and printers stopped working properly for some.

Individually, any of these problems would be reason to worry. The challenge for Quantum Dawn 2's victims was not only spotting a problem, but communicating with rivals, exchanges and government authorities to conclude that markets were in the throes of a systemic crisis and needed to be shut down.

"It didn't all happen at once - each attack affected firms differently," said Karl Schimmeck, vice president of Financial Services Operations at the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), a Wall Street trade group that oversaw the event.

"Some firms would see a problem, some firms wouldn't, and some firms only 'see' it second-hand because they're communicating with each other."

Banks are one of the biggest targets for cyber attacks, which have occurred more frequently over the past two years, security experts said.   Continued...

 
The Wall Street sign is seen near the New York Stock Exchange, November 19, 2012. REUTERS/Chip East