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11/8/2019
10:15 AM
Larry Loeb
Larry Loeb
Larry Loeb

'Quantum Dawn' Raid as Financial Industry Simulates Global Ransomware Attack

Financial institutions in Asia, the US and the UK are put through their paces.

The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association has just completed its simulation of a global-wide cybersecurity event focusing on the finance sector that had a code name of "Quantum Dawn."

This is the fifth QD event that has been run, but the current exercise was the first to have a global scope. The event was designed to simulate a widespread ransomware attack that crumbled large financial institutions in Asia, the US and UK.

CNBC reported that according to Thomas Price, who is a managing director at SIFMA, 800 participants from large banks, regulators and other financial firms from 12 countries joined the simulated cyber attack by conference call starting at 7 a.m. Thursday.

SIFMA's counterparts in Asia and Europe were also participating in this QD.

The simulation started with a big unnamed US company which is one of the "systemically important financial institutions" designated as "too big to fail" by regulators, falling to a ransomware attack. Timed after the close of the stock market, the institution was "attacked" by malicious ransomware and knocked totally offline, according to Price.

Price went on to describe that after the initial occurrence a number of questions were generated from the participants in attendance. There was also a discussion of rules about public disclosure of the incident and how the wider financial industry would coordinate and share information.

While the US was trying to deal with the first big outage, the same disruptive malware was assumed to affect another huge institution, this time in Asia. The Asian institution was also taken offline in the simulation.

After that step, the event posited that a UK institution fell to the same malware, and was simulated to be offline as well. Price was reported to say that representatives from the Bank of England and the UK’s Treasury were involved in the event by describing their role in the escalating, global attack.

Finally, QD ended with the ransomware migrating back to the US. There, it impacted a financial market utility. To make matters really hurt, it was one of the organizations that are responsible for facilitating payment and settlement activity in the US. Participants described at this point how available mitigation efforts could aid in keeping the funds flowing as well as the affected accounts settling.

Price said the QD participants were primarily focused on communications. Some of that effort was focused on how companies communicate internally to their own executives and employees and externally to their clients.

Ilia Kolochenko, founder and CEO of web security company ImmuniWeb, commented on the exercise in a prepared statement.

"This a laudable idea, other countries and industries shall definitely follow the example," he said. "I would, however, expand the scenario and consider breaches of trusted third-parties and governmental authorities. A large-scale ransomware attack, even if well-prepared and aimed against major financial institutions, is much less perilous than a campaign simultaneously targeting market regulators, news agencies and law enforcement agencies."

— Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE magazine and senior editor for the launch of WebWeek.

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