Wall Street regulator warns of 'cyber 9/11'

A top Wall Street regulator is raising the alarm about a potential "cyber 9/11" that could deal a significant blow to the U.S. economy.

Ben Lawsky, head of the New York Department of Financial Services, expressed fears Wednesday that hackers could mount an "Armageddon-type" attack against U.S. banks in the future.


"We are concerned that within the next decade, or perhaps sooner, we will experience an Armageddon-type cyber event that causes a significant disruption in the financial system for a period of time," Lawsky said during a speech at Columbia Law School. His comments were reported by USA Today.

U.S. financial institutions are under constant cyberattack from hackers around the world, and their online security is a growing area of concern for government officials and consumer advocates.

Cyber criminals have a history of successfully infiltrating banks through a variety of means.

Earlier this month, Moscow-based security firm Kaspersky Lab reported that a multinational hacking ring stole an unprecedented $1 billion from 100 banks over a period of two years. The banks were located in 30 countries, a hint at the scope of the threat.

Banks are required to safeguard sensitive data under the federal Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999.

Lawsky said Wednesday that he is considering a variety of new regulations at the state level, including providing banks with a grade on cybersecurity and requiring multistep password systems for workers in regulated companies.