The European Central Bank has warned banks to prepare for a possible jump in the number of cyber attacks as part of the fallout from the coronavirus.

The watchdog urged banks in a letter this week to test the capacity of their technology systems “also in light of a potential increase of cyber-attacks and potential higher reliance on remote banking services.” That suggests the ECB is concerned criminals may seek to take advantage of the chaos caused by the virus.

The outbreak has prompted lenders to ask more employees to work from home or spread them across different offices, while more clients may choose online banking over going to branches. While banks have improved defenses against hackers in recent years, the ECB has called cybercrime and technology deficiencies some of the top risks for the industry this year.
The ECB letter is part of efforts to ensure banks can keep functioning in case they’re directly affected by the coronavirus outbreak that’s rippling through the global economy.
Andrea Enria, who leads the ECB’s banking supervision arm, wrote that he expects banks to assess risks of increased cyber-security related fraud, aimed both at customers and the bank, for example via phishing mails. He also said banks should speak to outside contractors about whether and how they will be able to continue offering their services in case of a pandemic.

The ECB published the letter, dated March 3, on its website on Friday.


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