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UAE banks participate in cyber war gaming exercise

By Edil Corneille

February 01, 2021

  • First Abu Dhabi Bank
  • UAE
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CBUAE, UBF, regulation, payment, FinTech, digital, UAE, cybersecurityIn a first-of-its-kind exercise in the UAE, Central Bank of the UAE (CBUAE), and UAE Banks Federation (UBF), in collaboration with KPMG Lower Gulf conducted a cyber war gaming exercise, a simulation drill designed to test the UAE banking sector’s cyber resilience, as well as strengthen its capability to deal with increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks.

CBUAE, UAE Banks Federation, Emirates NBD (ENBD), First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB) and Mashreq Bank took part in the war gaming exercise.

KPMG made use of proprietary platforms to simulate a sector level cyber-attack that included multiple different scenarios and attack vectors. All participating banks responded to these scenarios, testing their incident response and crisis management capabilities. Bank executives discussed the importance of information sharing and collaboration to maintain resilience against such attacks.

Jamal Saleh, UBF Director General stated: “Cyber resilience is critical for modern financial systems, as disruptions can have a far-reaching impact for banks and the economy. The pandemic highlighted the urgency and importance of cyber resilience to protect the integrity of the banking system and the UAE’s national security. War gaming is one of the innovative ways in which UBF is helping the banking sector to test and evaluate institutional preparedness, as well as sector-level crisis management capabilities.”

Thabet Bakheet Khamis, Director of Information Security at Central Bank of the UAE, said: “The cyberattack simulation is an important milestone for the UAE banking sector as it allows us to apply crisis management strategies and collaborate at the national level with banks and relevant stakeholders to deal with cyber threat scenarios. This initiative comes as an assessment of the sector’s preparedness to limit and respond to any potential attacks and take necessary decisions and actions.”

Mohammed Darwish Azad, UBF Information Security Chairperson and Group CISO at Emirates NBD stated: “The UAE banking community is facing an increase in the cyber threats evolving at an unprecedented pace. If ever there was a time, it is now to Unify and Collaborate in order to combat and mitigate these threats and grow stronger together. The war gaming exercise as a community has never been more important, in order to rehearse, train, stress test our ecosystems, make quicker decisions and build “Muscle Memory.”

During the exercise, the participating banks responded to a simulated cyberattack through KPMG proprietary platforms with attack paths depicted in real time. Technical team members from different banks were challenged to respond to real life scenarios by detecting, containing and responding to different exploits. Management and executive management team members were challenged to collaborate, apply their respective cyber response strategies and take quick decisions at critical moments.

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