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US, UK to test finance sector cybersecurity this month

US, UK to test finance sector cybersecurity this month

The U.S. and the U.K. this month will test how finance centers on either side of the Atlantic would respond in the event of a massive cyberattack, Reuters reports.

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"It is testing how we would react to 'x' scenario, how would our colleagues in the U.S. react to the same, how would we then coordinate communications with each other, to the sector and within the sector," a spokesman for the British cybersecurity agency CERT-UK said Monday.

Officials have yet to set exact parameters for the exercises, which President Obama and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron agreed in January to conduct.

"There will be no testing of cash machines coming down, banks coming down or anything like that," the spokesman said.

It has also not been decided which banks will participate. The U.S. Treasury, Britain's finance ministry, the Bank of England and U.S. regulators will likely play a part, as will intelligence agencies.

The simulated cyberattacks are part of a pledge between the two nations to bolster coordinated responses to digital threats.

During Cameron’s official state visit in January, the White House said that "both leaders agreed to bolster efforts to enhance the cybersecurity of critical infrastructure in both countries, strengthen threat information sharing and intelligence cooperation on cyber issues, and support new educational exchanges between U.S. and British cybersecurity scholars and researchers."

The tests come in the wake of a triumvirate of high-profile telecom hacks in both countries. TalkTalk and Vodafone in the U.K. and T-Mobile in the U.S. have all disclosed security breaches in the last month.

Defense chiefs from both the U.S. and the U.K. have warned banks to be vigilant against nation-state hackers.

"We have to take note of the potential for offensive state cyberattacks against our financial sector, not for criminal gain but for political purposes, for retaliation," Sir David Omand, a former British intelligence director, said at an event at the London Stock Exchange in July, speaking alongside U.S. Director of National Intelligence Admiral Michael Rogers.

"If, for example, sanctions were increased on Russia over Russian behavior in Crimea and Ukraine, I would expect so-called patriotic hacker groups to attack Wall Street and the City in return,” Omand said.