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Terrorists likely to launch cyber attack against financial institutions, warns senior UK police official

Terrorists will probably launch a cyber attack in a bid to disrupt the global financial system, a senior UK police official has said.

Adrian Leppard, commissioner of the City of London police, said there is a "very strong likelihood" of such an attack in future, the Financial Times reported.

"If global trading stopped that would have an enormous impact on western society, global society," Leppard said, according to the report. "There could be a very serious impact to the financial institutions of the world through a cyber attack and I think it’s a very strong likelihood that [such an attack by terrorists] will happen one day in the future, which is why we’ve got to push back and take action now before it happens."

A new intelligence sharing initiative involving UK banks and the City of London police is expected to launch next year, but Leppard said the police need to think how to encourage banks to share information on cyber security. He said there is an argument that corporates should be able to be held liable for failing to prevent economic or financial crime, the report said.

Attorney general for England and Wales, Jeremy Wright, announced in September that the UK government is considering whether companies should face criminal charges for failing to prevent fraud, money laundering and other economic crimes.

Anti-corruption law expert Barry Vitou of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said: "We must not fall into the trap of passing new laws where none are required. The FCA already has significant regulatory powers over financial services firms and the adequacy, or not, of their systems and controls to prevent financial crime. Any new proposals to come up with an offence to fail prevent to fraud must have a defence, like the Bribery Act, of putting in place adequate procedures to prevent it. The two should not be confused."

Financial enforcement expert Michael Ruck of Pinsent Masons said: "Whilst it is clear that regulators and prosecutors are increasingly seeking to criminalise the activities of those in senior management there must be a balance with those actions which can reasonably be taken. Cybercrime is high on the agenda for all firms, including banks and those in the financial services world. They are investing heavily to prevent attacks on their systems."

"Whilst markets and trading are vital to the global and UK economy the police and other prosecuting agencies need to work with firms by identifying potential risks and explaining the activities prosecutors are taking to prevent or penalise those seeking to attack the system. To allow the perpetrators free reign whilst penalising those within firms seeking to prevent these attacks will only serve to isolate the financial services industry from those agencies tasked with protecting financial systems from such attacks," he said.

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