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UAE banks share information to combat cyber threats

Banks in the United Arab Emirates will share information on cyber attacks through a platform instigated by the country’s banking federation

United Arab Emirates banks are sharing information about cyber attacks through a platform from the UAE Banks Federation (UBF).

Initially, 13 of the UBF’s 48 member banks will share information via the Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC), which is provided by security software supplier Anomali.

Anomali’s ThreatStream platform will aggregate, correlate and analyse threat data from multiple sources in real time, giving the banks information to help them defend against attacks. The first banks to take part are HSBC, CBD, ADCB, Barclays, CBI, Citibank, ENBD, FAB, Mashreq, Noorbank, SCB, ADIB and NBF, and the UBF plans to add the remaining banks in phases.
 
“The platform will allow banks to get equipped with the tools and intelligence to better identify, protect, detect and respond to cyber attacks,” said UBF chairman Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair. “It will help to establish the importance and value of seamlessly collecting, sharing and analysing data, while allowing for anonymous reporting. Together, we can then reduce sensitive data exposure and make more informed decisions and investment strategies.”

Banks in the Middle East are facing increasingly sophisticated threats, according to security supplier FireEye. “The rise of the region as a hub for banking and finance has made it a tempting target for cyber attackers,” it said in a report. 

The region’s banks were targeted by a wave of cyber attacks last year.  For example, Qatar National Bank, the largest bank in the Middle East, was breached, with 1.4GB of customer data reportedly being dumped on a file-sharing website before being quickly taken offline. The data included account numbers, customer names and passwords.

A senior security expert in the banking sector said it was an excellent idea for banks to share IT security threat data. “I know other firms, such as security software providers, collate data and maybe other industries could do something similar, but I believe banks face a unique problem because they are particularly attractive, so it makes sense for them to get together on this,” he added.

“If one bank sees a threat first, it can let the others know about it before they get hit. Of course, the bad guys will change how they operate to overcome new countermeasures, but sharing the data should prove very helpful.”

But the expert warned: “In my experience, banks have been very wary of sharing any threat information, even internally, as it can affect customer confidence or give other bad guys an indication of where weakness exists. It will be interesting to see if this idea takes off or if there are unforeseen drawbacks in pulling this data together and potentially risking it getting into the wrong hands.”

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