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FINMA Swiss financial watchdog warns over cyber attacks

Cyber-attacks are now the most serious operational hazard facing the Swiss financial system, according to FINMA CEO Mark Branson

Cyber-attacks are now the most serious operational hazard facing the Swiss financial system, according to FINMA CEO Mark Branson

(Keystone)

Switzerland must do more to deal with the growing threat of cyber attacks, the Swiss financial watchdog FINMA has warned.

“The risks connected with these attacks are growing with the pace of global digitalization. Cyber attacks are now the most serious operational hazard facing the financial system, and both the private sector and public authorities should take them extremely seriously,” FINMA external linkChief Executive Mark Branson told its annual news conference on Tuesday. 

He said Swiss banks were facing various cyber threats such as “Retefe” malware attacks on e-banking systems, with around 100 attacks a day.

+ Cybercrime is rocketing in Switzerland

The FINMA CEO warned that Switzerland was lagging on safety behind other financial centres like the United States and Britain, which have central cybersecurity centres.

"We also need a common platform. It would bring together specialists from different branches and strengthen collaboration between experts from the financial sector and the authorities," he noted. 

Branson said cybercrime was becoming difficult to combat as banks move to outsource their activities, especially their back-office activities, which opens new fronts for hackers.

The risks for the financial system are not limited to cybercrime, however. Branson explained that new business models, particularly those relating to cryptocurrencies, entail both opportunities and risks for financial institutions and their clients. 

He said FINMA had received generally positive feedback to guidelines it published last month on how to regulate digital currency issues, known as initial coin offerings (ICOs). He added that FINMA would use the guidelines retroactively to review the deals that had already been launched. 

“We will judge the ICOs that were already done in Switzerland along this template or this grid,” Branson said. “That makes our work easier when looking at these ICOs to see if they would have been subject (to the guidelines).”

ATS-SDA/sb

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