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Getting serious about cybersecurity

What’s the biggest threat to the financial system today? According to Jamie Dimon, CEO of the JPMorgan Chase financial services firm, it’s the risk of a devastatingly effective cyber attack.

“I think the biggest vulnerability is cyber, for just about everybody,” Dimon said in a September television interview in India. “I think we have to focus on it; the United States government has to focus on it. We have to make sure because cyberterrorists… could cause real damage. We’re already spending a lot of money and J.P. Morgan is secure, but we should really worry about that.”

Dimon’s remarks channel the concerns of many executives—as well as many investors and consumers—in detailing the risk of a massive cybersecurity breach. October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and it’s a good time to focus on the issue to ensure that you are adequately protected.

The scope of the problem

The news is filled with stories of data breaches at private companies, government agencies, health care providers, non-profit organizations, schools and academic institutions—the list is virtually endless. As of August, the Identity Theft Resource Center had identified 864 breaches in 2018 alone at entities of all sizes, resulting in tens of millions of exposed data records. These numbers most likely underestimate the full scope of the problem.

The good news is that policymakers recognize the growing seriousness of the threat. In September, President Trump signed into action a comprehensive federal cybersecurity strategy for the United States – the first in 15 years. The strategy document lays out the stakes of the challenge in clear language:

Cyberspace is an integral component of all facets of American life, including our economy and defense. Yet, our private and public entities still struggle to secure their systems, and adversaries have increased the frequency and sophistication of their malicious cyber activities. America created the Internet and shared it with the world. Now, we must make sure to secure and preserve cyberspace for future generations.

The renewed government focus on cybersecurity is welcome. At the same time, private industry needs to continue leading the way in combating the threat. The financial industry is particularly attuned to the risks of data breaches, because savers, borrowers and investors need to know their accounts and personal information will be protected.

The industry response is not just about monitoring and prevention, though those are critical steps. It’s also about being prepared to respond to an attack, which in today’s world is likely to be a virtual inevitability.

SIFMA, along with our financial industry partners, government regulators and law enforcement, regularly run collaborative exercises to simulate a large-scale cyberattacks. These exercises, dubbed “Quantum Dawn,” help to determine strengths and vulnerabilities in the financial system so the industry can fortify defenses and improve coordination. Check out the results of the latest simulation: Quantum Dawn: What we learned from a massive simulation of a simulation financial system cyberattack

As a result of those findings, the industry is taking steps to harden our own systems to protect against ever-shifting threats and working to raise public awareness.

Understanding the threat

This last point—public awareness—is key. Unfortunately, most Americans are still lagging when it comes understanding cybersecurity threats. A 2017 survey by the Pew Research Center found that most Americans lacked knowledge about key issues in cybersecurity, particularly when it came to technical issues (perhaps unsurprisingly, younger respondents scored well in this area).

Remember that the front-line of online security is taking steps to protect yourself against a possible data breach or identity theft. Obviously, that’s not something you’ll always be able to control. But there are a number of things that consumers can do to reduce the chance of becoming a victim, or to reduce your exposure in the event of a cyberattack.

The following are some of our top resources for getting educated about the serious threats to cybersecurity, along with some tools you can use to protect your family or business.

Get smarter about your online security

Parents: Your online posts about kids could affect their long-term financial health

Be on the lookout for financial scams 

Get the facts about senior financial abuse

By reviewing the concepts in the articles and resources linked above, you’ll be taking a positive step toward getting up to speed on one of the most critical issues of personal and financial security we face today—and reducing the chance that you’ll be next in the long line of victims.

Learn more about National Cybersecurity Awareness at

More cybersecurity resources from SIFMA