Financial services and cybersecurity

18 December, 2019Heather Tilston

As technology continues to evolve, cybercrime is an increasing threat to the banking and finance sector. Heather Tilston looks at the challenges for law enforcement and finds out how those working in financial services can help.


The world is more connected than ever. More business is done online – particularly shopping at this time of year – and more and more data is digital. So, what’s wrong with that you might ask?

While doing business online poses great opportunities for the finance sector, and for customers of course, it also provides opportunities for criminals.

According to Ian Dyson, Commissioner of the City of London Police – speaking at this year’s World Conference of Banking Institutes (WCBI) – more than half of all crime in the UK is now fraud or cyber-related.

Cyber-crime comes in three main categories:

  • state actors – cyber espionage
  • hackers – typically young people working in their bedrooms, who treat hacking as a game, or ‘hacktivists’ working to political agendas
  • criminals – who use other people’s data to get money.

So how do criminals operate?

“Some [crime] is straightforward,” says Dyson. “They still use scam emails and people still fall for it. But some is now so sophisticated that even cyber specialists can be used for fraud without realising it.”

Challenges for law enforcement

It’s a big challenge for law enforcement, but Ian Dyson’s focus is on protecting the business of London – which is very much a global city.

So, what are the main challenges facing the police?

“Technology,” says Dyson. “It just keeps growing and changing – eg crypto-currencies and blockchain which make tracking criminals more difficult.”

But there are opportunities too. Biometrics, such as facial recognition, will be very important in helping to get a grip on identity, he said. Although he stressed the importance of continued access to these technologies for the police, with appropriate oversight.

Is the web unpoliceable?

There used to be a view that the web was ‘unpoliceable’ – but that’s changing, including on the so-called ‘dark web’, according to Dyson.

“We can operate across the globe. We work across jurisdictions and have officers permanently based in global hubs, such as New York,” he said.

“If we can’t get a judicial intervention we can disrupt – eg block traffic, close sites down. We’ve shut down call centres and arrested ring leaders. We’re really starting to get on the front foot of cyber fraud.”

There is also a national fraud reporting service which is linked to international bureaux. 

How can those in the finance sector help?

There are a few key things the industry could consider to help tackle cybercrime, according to Dyson.

First, share intelligence and data. While organisations do have to be aware of GDPR they should share data if there’s a suspected criminal reason.

Second, banks should work in partnership with the police, for example on training. The police need training on bank skills and processes, and bank workers on law enforcement and the risks they should look out for.

Ensuring staff are equipped with right the skills and qualifications they need to manage risks in a digital world not only helps prevent cybercrime but also helps banks protect their own business.

Related content

Find out more about our professional qualifications

Find out more about our Centre for Digital Banking and Finance