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Cyberattacks put finance sector at risk

By Marcie Geffner ·
Saturday, February 8, 2014
Posted: 6 am ET

Cyberattacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated and could impair the critical infrastructure of the U.S. financial sector.

Those concerns were expressed by Comptroller of the Currency Thomas J. Curry in a recent testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is a federal government banking regulatory agency.

In his remarks, Curry said there were "few issues of greater concern" to the OCC than the increasing risk of attacks that occur through cyberspace. As examples, he cited the recent customer data breaches at Target and Neiman Marcus and so-called denial of service attacks on some large banks.

These attacks are "more than just an inconvenience for banks and their customers," Curry said.

Financial institutions generally protect their customers from fraudulent charges. However, customers who are affected by a data breach still must spend time and money to monitor their accounts and restore their credit information, while banks must pay for the cost to replace compromised cards, provide credit-monitoring services and reimburse customers for fraud losses, Curry said.

"Moreover, every data breach raises questions about the security of our retail payment systems, which can diminish public confidence," he added.

Banks must protect both their own systems and their customers' data and respond promptly when a breach of customer information occurs. But government banking regulators also must be on the job, updating supervisory practices and industry guidance to keep pace with rapidly changing cyberthreats and engaging in outreach to banks to share information about emerging threats, Curry said.

The comptroller's remarks were made during Senate committee hearings about the recent data breaches, which have affected millions of consumers.

Curry has been comptroller since April 2012.

The OCC supervises more than 2,000 U.S. banks and federal savings institutions and about 50 federal branches and agencies of foreign banks that operate in the U.S.

Are you worried about cyberthreats?

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