Bank of England deploys war-games to battle hackers

13 November 2018 3 min. read

As war-gaming and the concept of gamification continue to rise in popularity among a business world constantly called on to adapt to new challenges, the Bank of England has confirmed it has engaged a number of major financial players in a day-long event to strategise for the event of a cyberattack. Threadneedle Street said it hoped authorities and firms could find areas for improvement in their security from the game.

While it has often been labelled a buzzword, gamification has steadily caught on among the community, particularly thanks to its potential to help entities outfox hackers. By deconstructing what games actually are and by applying a games mind-set to solve real life challenges in businesses, people can see for themselves just how powerful game approaches can be within business. This means organisations can devise how they can best react to certain scenarios, without the threat of having to learn best practices via the traditional school of hard knocks.

As a result, so-called serious gaming has recently become a popular tool for decision making, testing scenarios and the transformation of organisations. Even the more traditionally-oriented worlds of the government and the financial sector are slowly but surely taking on serious gaming, with ‘war gaming’ – game forms in which (military) strategic decisions can be tested in conflict situations – gaining popularity in particular. The latest of these new champions of serious gaming is the Bank of England.

Bank of England deploys war-games to battle hackers

According to reports from the BBC, at the start of November, Threadneedle Street tested the UK's ability to withstand a major cyber-attack on financial institutions with an exercise in partnership with regulators and the Treasury. The central bank of the United Kingdom has previously expressed fears that disruption to one bank's payments could have a direct impact on the entire economy, by preventing its customers from paying for goods and services, while a subsequent ripple effect would see this spread to other banks. As a result, more than 40 firms, including leading banks, have taken part in a one-day "war-gaming" exercise designed to assess their resilience.

The Bank hopes that the day will ensure firms are able to meet certain minimum recovery standards after a cyberattack. In a statement to the press, the institution said, "The exercise will help authorities and firms identify improvements to our collective response arrangements, improving the resilience of the sector as a whole.”

Not everyone shares the optimism of the Bank of England, however. Former hacker and current cybersecurity expert Robert Schifreen informed the BBC's Today programme that he believed while taking any action was a welcome step, the exercise was ultimately unrealistic.

He elaborated, "It's going to be a nice Friday, everyone's cleared their diary, everyone knows what's going to happen, and it doesn't normally happen like this… When you get hacked, it's probably going to be on a Sunday afternoon, half the people you need to contact are going to be away on holiday and haven't told you what their contact numbers are, so it's not realistic, but it's great to see them doing something."

Related: Bank of England echoes warning of 75,000 job financial services 'Brexodus'.