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Wall Street gears up to battle cyber attacks with 'war game'

July 01, 2013|By Andrew Tangel
  • "War games" come to Wall Street.
"War games" come to Wall Street. (Scott Eells / Bloomberg )

NEW YORK — Later this month, Wall Street firms will prepare to battle a growing menace: cyber attacks.

The financial industry has weathered its share of such attacks in recent months as U.S. officials have become increasingly alarmed over computer-launched onslaughts by other states, terrorists and hackers. Top military and intelligence officials have said the cyber threat now outranks Al Qaeda.

“We’ve been under attack as a sector for the last nine months,” said Karl Schimmeck, vice president of financial services operations at the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Assn., a major industry group. “We know this is real. We know things are possible.”

So on July 18, SIFMA will coordinate a simulated cyber attack with about 50 firms in an exercise called Quantum Dawn 2. Exchanges, the U.S. Treasury and the Department of Homeland Security will also participate in the exercise, a sequel to a 2011 simulation.

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Schimmeck would say little about the type of barrage the participating firms would face. But he said firms would get hit with multiple simulated attacks, and indicated the fallout would affect the broader financial markets.

“It would be a pretty major news item,” Schimmeck said. “We’re testing it as a sector-wide incident with systemic implications.” 

SIFMA will oversee the simulation from its offices in Manhattan's financial district. The exercise was rescheduled from last week so more firms could participate. 

After the exercise, participants will be able to assess their responses and hone their defenses.

“This is part of the game of staying ahead of your adversary," Schimmeck said.

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