Technology

UAE Banks Exercise Simulated Cyber Attacks

As we rely progressively on digital financial technologies, over the last decade, the number of cyber-attacks has tripled and financial services remain the most impacted market. Cybersecurity obviously has been a threat to financial stability. In the coronavirus pandemic, a growing number of cyber-attacks has sent the banks a message for strengthening cybersecurity measures to defend themselves against potential threats.

According to data provided by Carbon Black Inc., which provides cybersecurity technology to financial institutions, attacks on the financial sector increased globally by 238 percent from early February to the end of April. Ransomware attacks have escalated by 9x over the time, with phishing emails being the primary cause.

Last month, in a first of its kind exercise in UAE, Central Bank of UAE (CBUAE) and UAE Banks Federation (UBF) together with KPMG Lower Gulf have completed a simulated cyber-war gaming exercise to analyze the preparedness of UAE banking industry as well as to strengthen their capacity to deal with increasingly sophisticated cyber-attacks. The war game exercised included the CBUAE, the UAE Bank Federation, Emirates NBD (ENBD), First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB), and Mashreq Bank.

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The participating banks reacted to a simulated cyber attack during the exercise via proprietary networks of the KPMG with real-time attack paths. The technical team from various banks have been challenged by the detection, containment and response to diverse exploits to respond to real-life scenarios. Members of the management team were challenged to work together, implement their respective cyber response strategies and make swift decisions at critical times.

How Cyber Attack Simulation Is Performed In The Banking Sector?

Cyber war gaming is a simulation of sector-level cyber attacks involving various scenarios and attack vectors. Here it was done using proprietary platforms of KPMG, a global business consulting firm. These situations were faced by all the participating banks which in-turn maps their incident and crisis management capabilities. Bank managers discussed the importance of exchanging information and working together to maintain resilience to such attacks.

“The cyber simulation is cross-functional exercise, it requires us to conduct detailed planning, complex scenario building, designing the cyber range for technical teams, training and awareness, testing the range, and collaborating across banks,” says Mr. Azad, chairman of UBF’s Information Security. 

Mohammed Darwish Azad, group chief information and security officer of Emirates NBD, said: “The wargaming exercise as a community has never been more important … in order to rehearse, train, test our ecosystems, make quicker decisions and build muscle memory”.


A 2020 report from Accenture revealed that organizations are making progress in cybersecurity. As discussed statistically, the total number of cyberattacks dropped 11 percent, from 232 to 206 targeted attacks. At the same time, there’s a larger drop of 27 percent in the number of security breaches which indicates the basics seem to be improving. On average, organizations now face 22 security breaches per year compared with 30 in the previous year, which is definitely a positive sign.

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