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Report: Financial Industry Group Pushes for Cyberwar Council

Fears of a potentially devastating cyberattack worry the financial industry, but the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association reportedly has a plan to create a public-private council to help tackle the issue. Some former former NSA and Homeland Security heads may help.

The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) has done a lot of work to prepare its members for cyberbattle—going so far as to hold its own war games, complete with titles inspired by movies.

Sure, those test runs have taught the industry a lot. But SIFMA wants to take its cybersecurity efforts a step further—and it wants to join forces with the federal government to do it.

According to a Bloomberg report, the financial markets trade group is suggesting the creation of a public-private council that would work to prevent attacks on the banking industry that could wreak havoc on data, equipment, and financial security.

“The systemic consequences could well be devastating for the economy, as the resulting loss of confidence in the security of individual and corporate savings and assets could trigger widespread runs on financial institutions that likely would extend well beyond the directly impacted banks, securities firms, and asset managers,” states an internal SIFMA document acquired by Bloomberg.

SIFMA hopes to work closely with federal government, proposing that the council include representatives from at least eight federal agencies, including the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security, and be led by a White House official. The association has hired former NSA Director Keith Alexander to help launch the effort; he has asked former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to help, Bloomberg reports.

Skepticism from Congress

While concerns are running high that a wide-scale cyberattack may be possible, some in Washington, such as Rep. Alan Grayson (R-FL), suggest that the proposed council could overstep the bounds of a traditional public-private partnership.

“This could in effect make the banks part of what would begin to look like a war council,” Grayson told the wire service. “Congress needs to keep an eye on what something like this could mean.”

Lawmakers have been taking a closer look at boosting formal cybersecurity efforts. The Senate Intelligence Committee this week is marking up the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, a bill cosponsored by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) that encourages companies to improve transparency around potential digital threats. Work on the measure follows Target’s massive data breach last year that drew attention to the issue.

SIFMA declined to comment to the media on the proposed council.

(iStock/Thinkstock)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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