The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has warned UK banks to stress test their cyber defences as fears grow of Russian-sponsored cyber attacks amid tensions in Ukraine.
Banks with large operations in the UK have been contacted by the FCA and warned of the heightened risk of attack if a Russian invasion in Ukraine leads to strict financial sanctions, according to source cited by the Financial Times.
UK Foreign secretary Liz Truss has indicated the UK is willing to introduce strict economic measures in the event of an invasion, including widen the scope of Russian assets that can be targeted in the UK.
The FCA confirmed in a statement it has been in touch with UK lenders to shore up security systems.
“As you’d expect, we’re contacting firms to highlight the National Cyber Security Centre’s statement that organisations should bolster their cyber security resilience,” the regulator said.
The warnings come as the impact of tensions in Ukraine ripple through the European financial system, with Italy’s UniCredit backing out of a potential acquisition in Russia and Austria’s Raiffeisen Bank International setting aside risk provisions for possible sanction on Russia.
Politicians have floated the potential expulsion of Russia from SWIFT, the widely used international payment system, which would have a significant impact on Banks across the continent.
Banking sources told Reuters that the move would be an “atomic bomb” for the industry because it would prevent the repayment of debts.