By Steven Scheer
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel on Thursday led a 10-country simulation of a major cyberattack on the global financial system in an attempt to increase cooperation that could help to minimise any potential damage to financial markets and banks.
The simulated "war game", as Israel's Finance Ministry called it and planned over the past year, evolved over 10 days, with sensitive data emerging on the Dark Web. The simulation also used fake news reports that in the scenario caused chaos in global markets and a run on banks.
The simulation -- likely caused by what officials called "sophisticated" players -- featured several types of attacks that impacted global foreign exchange and bond markets, liquidity, integrity of data and transactions between importers and exporters.
"These events are creating havoc in the financial markets," said a narrator of a film shown to the participants as part of the simulation and seen by Reuters.
Israeli government officials said that such threats are possible in the wake of the many high-profile cyberattacks on large companies, and that the only way to contain any damage is through global cooperation since current cyber security is not always strong enough.
"Attackers are 10 steps ahead of the defender," Micha Weis, financial cyber manager at Israel's Finance Ministry, told Reuters.
Participants in the initiative, called "Collective Strength", included treasury officials from Israel, the United States, the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Thailand, as well as representatives from the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Bank of International Settlements.
The narrator of the film in the simulation said governments were under pressure to clarify the impact of the attack, which was paralysing the global financial system.
"The banks are appealing for emergency liquidity assistance in a multitude of currencies to put a halt to the chaos as counterparties withdraw their funds and limit access to liquidity, leaving the banks in disarray and ruin," the narrator said.
The participants discussed multilateral policies to respond to the crisis, including a coordinated bank holiday, debt repayment grace periods, SWAP/REPO agreements and coordinated delinking from major currencies.
Rahav Shalom-Revivo, head of Israel's financial cyber engagements, said international collaboration between finance ministries and international organizations "is key for the resilience of the financial eco-system."
The simulation was originally scheduled to take place at the Dubai World Expo but it was moved to Jerusalem due to the Omicron variant of COVID-19, with officials participating over video conference.
(Reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by Jane Merriman and Lisa Shumaker)