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Europe’s central bank is reacting to a jump in cyber threats since the start of the Ukraine war

Following a sharp rise in cyberattacks, the European Central Bank plans to test the cyber resilience of the euro zone’s top banks, Reuters reports.

ECB supervisory chief Andrea Enria told a Lithuanian newspaper that the test plan is a necessary precaution given the situation in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Enria told the Lithuanian news outlet Verslo žinios: “Next year we are launching a thematic stress test on cyber resilience, which will try to test how banks are able to respond to and recover from a successful cyberattack”.

The ECB action marks another step in response to global cybersecurity threats that have emerged over the past year. Last November, The European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) issued warnings regarding cyber threats to banks as well as governments, utility providers and digital infrastructure. Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre has issued similar threat notices.

Attacks could be a direct response to sanctions

The ECB has long been warning banks to be alert for cyberattacks from Russia, Reuters notes. The warnings were issued after the European Union passed a sweeping set of sanctions against Moscow in response to its invasion of Ukraine.

“There has been a significant increase in cyberattacks”, Enria said. “We cannot apportion this to any specific source, but it is a fact that the number of these attacks has increased since the war started”.

Enria said that part of the problem is that banks are outsourcing some of their critical IT infrastructure to third parties such as outside providers or other entities in their corporate group.

Banks can be cut off from counterparties quickly, leaving them vulnerable. Such disruptions can be due to cyber attacks, but could also occur due to sanctions affecting the IT service providers.

Enria said the results of the test are due around the middle of 2024.