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Jaakko Weuro: Preparing for hybrid threats in the financial sector

Ministry of Finance
Publication date 12.9.2019 9.02

A well-oiled financial system keeps the wheels of the economy turning. This means that a strike against critical points in the financial system could bring society to its knees. Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the EU aims to put the issue of new threats to the financial market and ways to counter them on the political agenda.

The EU finance ministers and the governors of member states’ central banks will discuss this topic at their informal meeting in Helsinki on 13–14 September.

Cyber attacks, intimidation and disinformation

Hybrid threats arise as a result of the coordinated use by state or non-state actors of a wide range of methods to achieve specific objectives while stopping short of a formal declaration of war. The methods used to generate hybrid threats include various coercive activities that jeopardise security by conventional or unconventional means. These methods can be diplomatic, military, economic or technological.

Hybrid actions include cyber attacks and disinformation campaigns fomenting civic unrest. Such actions can be carried out to interfere with critical infrastructure, including the energy grid and communications links.

Vulnerable communications

Hybrid actions may also target the financial market, which is vulnerable because it depends on real-time international communications links and systems and on public trust.

A carefully planned and targeted strike against critical points in the financial system can have dire consequences for society. Even short disruptions can cause major financial damage and incite fear.  

The EU has identified protecting the financial system as a critical element of the strategic framework on countering hybrid threats. However, the member states have yet to discuss the issue at the political level. Until now, their action has focused on improving the exchange of technical information about hybrid threats.

Infrastructure needs protecting

Countering hybrid threats involves both internal and external security, and consequently requires close cooperation between a wide range of authorities. Finland’s initiative on preparing for hybrid threats in the financial sector is part of a broader set of issues that are a priority for our Presidency and on the agenda of several ministerial meetings during it.

To counter hybrid threats, we need to protect critical European infrastructure. Financial markets need to be part of this work. On the other hand, so as to maintain the stability of the financial market, it is essential to identify such threats in financial supervision and regulation as well as in risk management by market participants.

Jaakko Weuro, Financial Services Counsellor, Permanent Representation of Finland to the European Union