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US and UK to test financial cyber-security later this month

[LONDON] The United States and Britain will test later this month how its regulators would respond if their financial sectors suffered a major cyber-attack or broader IT problems, a British official said on Monday.

The test, for which no date has yet been set, will focus on how regulators for the world's two biggest financial centres in New York and London communicate in an emergency, a spokesman for British government cyber-security body CERT-UK said. "It is testing how we would react to 'x' scenario, how would our colleagues in the US react to the same, (and) how would we then coordinate communications with each other, to the sector and within the sector," he said. "There will be no testing of cash machines coming down, banks coming down or anything like that," he added, contradicting an earlier media report.

US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron agreed last January to hold the joint exercise this year and coordinate their responses to an online attack on their financial sectors.

Businesses on both sides of the Atlantic have shown vulnerability to hacking. Just last month, hacking attacks threatened to compromise the data of 4 million customers of British telecoms company TalkTalk and 15 million clients of T-Mobile US Inc.

The CERT-UK spokesman said no final decision had been made on the exact scenarios for the exercise or the banks that would take part. The US Treasury, Britain's finance ministry, the Bank of England (BoE) and US regulators would take part and intelligence agencies are also likely to play a role, he said.

The BoE said earlier this year that British banks needed to do more to bolster their defences against cyber attacks, and might require them to conduct tests of how easily their systems could be hacked or suffer other weaknesses.

REUTERS