December 19, 2016 / 12:17 AM / in 7 months

Britain urged to increase cyber security in financial services

2 Min Read

A magnifying glass is held in front of a computer screen in this picture illustration taken in Berlin May 21, 2013.Pawel Kopczynski

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's intelligence agencies need to do more to help regulators to protect the financial services industry from cyber crime, the head of an influential parliamentary committee said on Monday.

Andrew Tyrie, a lawmaker in the ruling Conservative Party, said parliament's Treasury Committee was concerned about the "opaque lines of accountability", particularly between regulators and intelligence agencies.

While financial regulators are accountable to the Treasury, Britain's GCHQ security agency reports to the foreign minister, who may be more focused on the need to address state-sponsored cyber crime and terrorism, he said.

"It is essential that the intelligence community gives the regulators the technical and practical support they need to do their job. This means making sure that financial cyber crime has a high priority, and is not subordinate to other work," he said.

"Failure to do so would inhibit the ability of financial institutions to maintain an adequate level of protection for millions of consumers."

Last month Tesco Bank, the banking arm of retailer Tesco, said 2.5 million pounds ($3 million) was stolen from a total of 9,000 customers in what cyber experts said was the first mass hacking of accounts at a western bank.

In a letter to the head of the National Cyber Security Centre, dated Dec. 7 and published on Monday, Tyrie said this was only the latest example of criminals exploiting vulnerabilities in the banking industry's IT systems.

"Legacy systems, human error and deliberate attack have resulted in unacceptable interruptions to vital banking services and weakened the public's confidence in the banking system as a whole," he said.

Tyrie said greater scrutiny of the existing arrangements was needed, and the National Cyber Security Centre, which is part of GCHQ, should consider creating a single point of responsibility for cyber risk in financial services.

Reporting by Kylie MacLellan. Editing by Jane Merriman

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