Six senators urge Obama to prioritize cybercrime at G20 summit

Six Democratic lawmakers asked President Obama to work with his counterparts in G20 to counter cybercrime.
Six Democratic lawmakers asked President Obama to work with his counterparts in G20 to counter cybercrime.

As President Obama prepares to attend the Group of 20 Summit in China, six Democratic senators asked him to make cybercrime a top priority.

In a letter obtained by Reuters, the group, which includes Senate Banking Committee member Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Michigan's Gary Peters, noted that while the world's “financial institutions are connected in order to facilitate global commerce,” cybercriminals – regardless of whether they are working independently or are state-sponsored – “imperil this international system in a way few threats have."

The lawmakers asked the president to work with his “counterparts and prioritize this discussion at the G20 leaders level” and commit to a "coordinated strategy” to battle cybercrime “at critical financial institutions." The meetup in Hangzhou, China, will take place over the Labor Day weekend.

A number of cyberattacks, including a massive breach of Bangladesh Bank's systems, prompted the senators, who characterized SWIFT's response as insufficient, to call for the international financial community to "erect more robust defenses and collaborative systems to prevent and mitigate the impact of successful attacks," Reuters quoted the letter as saying.

Effectively battling cyberattacks against financial institutions will take more than a consensus and commitment from world leaders. “While cybercrime definitely merits discussion at the G20 Summit, what can't get lost is the impetus for the discussion – the SWIFT attack, which was a failure in third-party cyber risk management,” Fred Kneip, CEO at CyberGRX, said in comments emailed to SCMagazine.com. “Collaboration and information sharing at all levels are the keys to effectively mitigating the persistent and potentially damaging threats posed by cybercriminals.”

Kneip noted that a single vulnerability can give “increasingly sophisticated attackers” the entre they need “to gain access and ride in on a trusted connection." The G20 discussion needs to include discussions on how to effectively share information about third-party cyber risk, including preventing risk from the extended enterprise – outsourcers, customers, vendors, service providers and affiliates, he said.

The group of senators, which also included Mark Warner (Virginia), Martin Heinrich (New Mexico), Kirsten Gillibrand (New York) and Debbie Stabenow (Michigan), sent copies of the letter to Secretary of Treasury Jack Lew and Janet Yellen, who chairs the Federal Reserve.

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