Emerging Financial Institutions Risk of 2012

Emerging Risk

Emerging Risk
Bradley Manning is the most frightening emerging risk facing financial institutions. Who is Bradley Manning and what makes him so dangerous? Manning is the 24-year-old army private who worked as a low-level technician on the top secret communication system employed by the U.S. government to transmit information around the world, and is accused of leaking more than 250,000 diplomatic cables to Wikileaks.

In an age when data and information are moved electronically, if Manning did leak the cables, it would demonstrated in unambiguous terms that one dissatisfied individual can wreak havoc on a corporation, institution or a government. That knowledge can be dynamite. What has been lacking is a fuse.

Protesters occupy Zuccotti Park to protest Wall Street

Protesters occupy Zuccotti Park to protest Wall Street

Last year’s Occupy Wall Street movement may be that missing fuse. While some in the media may dismiss the Occupy movement as a collection of unemployed malcontents, the truth is that the movement has won supporters from all socio-economic levels. Some of those supporters are employed in positions that could give them the opportunity to cause immeasurable damage to a single institution or financial network.

Frankly I am not afraid of an army private downloading documents on a thumb drive, like Manning is accused of doing. I am not afraid of the foreign extremist trying to hack his way past firewalls. Our systems are prepared for those eventualities. It is the bright programmer with an Ivy League education and an access card working at a technology, bank or credit card companies that should scare us all.

Perhaps nothing on our current radar is more chilling than an intelligent, technically capable individual who believes that the financial system is broken and they can make a significant impact by throwing a wrench in the system. I am afraid of Bradley Manning 2.0.

The other emerging cyber risk is not the lone recluse, but the angry mob. One Manning can wreak havoc. With the US government’s closing of the illegal download site “Megaupload.com” on January 19th we saw what 5,600 coordinated hackers could do.

Operating under the Anonymous moniker, the disaffected assemblage crashed such high-profile targets as the websites for the Department of Justice, MPAA, the US Copyright office and Universal Music.

This was a spur of the moment response. Envision the risk to a financial institution that is specifically targeted by a group such an Anonymous in a coordinated attack. Bradley Manning times thousands.

This post was part of the special feature about What Risks Will Emerge in 2012? published January 24, 2012. The feature also covered emerging risks in these other fields:
Employee Safety
Environmental Liability
Health Care
Life Sciences
Political Risk
Power & Utilities
Renewable Energy
Supply Chain Interruption
Trade Credit

About Richard Magrann-Wells

Richard is a Executive Vice President with Willis Towers Watson’s Financial Institutions Group based in Los Angel…
Categories: Cyber Risk, Financial Services | Tags: ,

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