Responding to a warning from the head of the City of London police which suggested there is a “very strong likelihood” of a cyber attack on financial institutions in the Square Mile, KPMG’s Stephen Bonner argues that business “should be prepared to think the unthinkable”.
Bonner, a partner in KPMG’s Cyber Security practice, says: “Our financial clients are now used to dealing with sophisticated cyber crime – for many it’s arguably a cost of doing business in the digital world. The rather different spectre of Cyber Terrorism has yet to materialise over the Square Mile. It may yet turn out to be the next ‘y2k’ bug - lacking the visceral impact of explosions or hijacked aircraft - but with the potential to create much concern and heated debate.
“A warning from the police serves as a salutary reminder that Britain can no longer regard itself as a digital island, isolated from world events and global cyber threats. Financial meltdown from cyber attack currently remains the stuff of Hollywood, but we still need to think beyond current threats and look to a future which is likely to include more political extremism by increasingly cyber-savvy groups. Whether we choose to describe those attacks as terrorism, or not, is a political choice. The need for effective cyber defences remains the same.
“The fact is that the UK’s financial systems are increasingly interconnected and interdependent, with trillions of dollars traded every day on the markets. It’s not just Britain that would be affected which is why any cyber attack should be viewed as an attack on the business community as whole – meaning anything would require a community response. The recent Waking Shark exercises in the Square Mile are a good start, but together we can do more to prepare for future scenarios to understand exactly where the cyber risk lies.
“The UK government has made progress in developing and implementing its national cyber security strategy, but business needs to play its part. More information about threats is shared than ever before but it’s still not enough. Questions remain about whether organisations really understand how reliant they are on each other. Until these are answered, can we really say we are strong together?”
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KPMG LLP, a UK limited liability partnership, is a subsidiary of KPMG Europe LLP and operates from 22 offices across the UK with approximately 11,500 partners and staff. The UK firm recorded a turnover of £1.8 billion in the year ended September 2013. KPMG is a global network of professional firms providing Audit, Tax, and Advisory services. It operates in 155 countries and has 155,000 professionals working in member firms around the world. The independent member firms of the KPMG network are affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative ("KPMG International"), a Swiss entity. Each KPMG firm is a legally distinct and separate entity and describes itself as such.
This article represents the views of the author only, and does not necessarily represent the views or professional advice of KPMG in the UK.