ECB Warns Banks To Prepare For Russian Cyberattacks


ECB warns banks to prepare for possible Russian-sponsored cyber attacks, as fears of possible military conflict in Ukraine mount

Despite diplomatic efforts with Russia and the West, concern continues to mount about the tense military stand-off between Moscow and Ukraine.

The European Central Bank has warned banks to prepare for a possible Russian-sponsored cyber attack, Reuters reported, citing two people with knowledge of the matter.

The region is bracing for a potential financial fallout if Russia does decide to invade Ukraine, despite French President holding marathon talks with Russian President President Vladimir Putin.

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Banking warning

Last week US deputy national security advisor Anne Neuberger told her European counterparts that Russia could use cyberattacks as part of its efforts to destabilise and further invade Ukraine.

Prior to that the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) issued a warning to British organisations to take action to bolster their cyber security resilience in response to the malicious cyber incidents in and around Ukraine.

Now the European Central Bank, led by former French minister Christine Lagarde and which has oversight of Europe’s biggest lenders, is on alert for potential cyberattacks on banks launched from Russia, the people told Reuters.

While the European banking regulator had been focused on ordinary scams that boomed during the pandemic, the Ukraine crisis has diverted its attention to cyberattacks launched from Russia, said one of the people, adding that the ECB has questioned banks about their defences.

Banks are reportedly conducting cyber war games to test their ability to fend off an attack, the person said.

The ECB, which has singled out addressing cybersecurity vulnerability as one of its priorities, declined to comment.

“Nation state attacks are first and foremost extremely persistent,” noted Jake Moore, global cyber security advisor at ESET. “The level of attack is on a different scale, with only one mission in mind, and we have already witnessed warning attacks so being on guard is mandatory.”

“The motivator behind a nation state attack differs from the usual financial attack,” said Moore. “This alert is being sounded to warn of attempts to majorly disrupt the targeted countries and bring multiple organisations to a standstill. It is often unknown what specifics will be used but it is assumed there will be multiple attack points of entry ranging from phishing emails to physical entry.”

Global alerts

Europe and the United Kingdom are not the only regions to warn about potential cyberattacks as a result of the Russia, Ukraine tensions.

Reuters reported that the New York Department of Financial Services issued an alert to financial institutions in late January, warning of retaliatory cyber attacks should Russia invade Ukraine and trigger US sanctions.

Russia has amassed over 120,000 troops on the Ukraine border amid a tense standoff over Russian concerns about NATO expansion.

Russia of course has invaded Ukraine previously, when it illegally seized and annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

Amid the tense stand-off, Ukraine suffered a massive cyberattack last month that impacted at least 70 government websites, as well as the US, UK and Swedish embassies.