The Group of Seven industrial powers on Tuesday said they had agreed on guidelines for protecting the global financial sector from cyberattacks following a series of cross-border bank thefts by hackers.
Policymakers have grown more worried about financial cybersecurity in the wake of numerous hacks of SWIFT, the global financial messaging system, including an $81 million theft in February from the Bangladeshi central bank's account at the New York Federal Reserve.
"Cyber risks are growing more dangerous and diverse, threatening to disrupt our interconnected global financial systems," according to the guidelines agreed upon by G-7 finance ministers and central bankers.
The guidelines, which officials described as nonbinding principles, were in a three-page document posted on the web pages of G-7 government agencies. The G-7 consists of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.
U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin told reporters in a telephone briefing that G-7 officials had surveyed their existing cybersecurity practices and identified potential shortfalls.
A Treasury official later said the guidance was an effort to encourage regulators and firms to approach cybersecurity from a risk-management perspective. Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer said in a statement that the guidelines would address the weakest links in global cybersecurity.
Cyberthieves have targeted large financial institutions around the world, including America's largest bank JPMorgan, as well as smaller players like Ecuador's Banco del Austro and Vietnam's Tien Phong Bank. The U.S. Federal Reserve's internal security staff detected more than 50 breaches between 2011 and 2015, with several incidents described as "espionage."
The guidelines released Tuesday instruct governments to ensure that they police their own cybersecurity readiness as well as that of companies they regulate, and that public and private institutions continually update their defenses.
The goal of the guidelines was also to get firms and regulators around the world to approach risks the same way, according to the Treasury official.
"If we get this right, we will drive a common lexicon," said the official, who asked not to be named.
Governments are also supposed to notify one another about joint threats and cooperate to contain computer system breaches, while firms are encouraged to share information and ask for help when they need it.
"Maintaining trust and confidence in the financial sector significantly improves when entities and public authorities have the ability to mutually assist each other," according to the guidelines.