Terrorist Cyber Attack

MQT on 2014-12-17
Session date: 
December 17, 2014
Question By: 
Tony Arbour
GLA Conservatives
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Following the recent statement from the Commissioner of City of London Police Adrian Leppard, that there is a "very strong likelihood" that Islamist terrorists such as ISIS will launch a cyber-attack on London's financial institutions, is London prepared for such an attack?


Answer for Terrorist Cyber Attack

Answer for Terrorist Cyber Attack

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Yes.  Thank you for a very good and sensible question showing a clear intellectual line, unlike the mushy-minded Liberal Democrats who cannot work out whether they are in favour or against something.


Tony Arbour AM:  Nothing new there, then?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Nothing new there.  We think this is a very serious problem.  You only have to look at what happened to the air traffic control system the other day at Swanwick when the whole thing was paralysed.  Actually, it seems to have been an accident, but you can see the kind of risks that cybercrime and cyberterrorism pose.


London has just been given some money, I am very proud to say, by the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities institution and we are going to devote those resources specifically to looking at this challenge.  We take it extremely seriously.


Tony Arbour AM:  Of course, my question asked whether or not we are prepared for this.  Would you say that we are prepared?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Currently we are as prepared as we can be, but clearly the technology moves very fast and we need to be constantly aware of what the bad guys might want to do.  There is no doubt that there will be people out there who will be seeking ways to paralyse transport networks or to paralyse the City of London.  We must be very vigilant about it.


Tony Arbour AM:  Can I suggest a couple of ways, Mr Mayor, in which you might encourage better preparedness?  Are you aware that there are very many fraud attempts made on British banks and other financial institutions that are not reported as having occurred because the banks and the other financial institutions think that somehow or another reporting these attacks will affect their reputations?  Would you not agree with me that that is a short-sighted thing and that there should be an obligation on banks and other institutions to report these successful frauds?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Absolutely, and in many cases banks have decided that it is cheaper to cough up to their customer for whatever fraud has occurred than to mount a proper investigation and to make sure it does not happen again.  I rather agree with you, Tony, though I probably need to look in more detail at what the banks are actually doing or not doing. 


Tony Arbour AM:  Similarly, the City of London Police, which leads on these matters for London, is creating ties with New York and other financial centres to see how they are combatting fraud.  Do you not think that the MPS should do the same? 


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Yes.  I know that through the Rockefeller Foundation’s Resilience Fund - and obviously that is one - with the other 100 cities that are involved, we will be co‑ordinating our efforts.  I know MOPAC is looking at exactly that co‑ordination. 


Tony Arbour AM:  Yes.  Do you think that as part of the MPS’s work on dealing with fraud, it should have a specific responsibility to defend financial institutions against fraud?  I say that because attacks on financial institutions can create, as indeed we are currently seeing with what is happening with the rouble, that an attack on one financial institution can have global effects and therefore - and this relates to the first point that I made about reporting fraud - the MPS should have a specific responsibility to say to financial institutions, “This is something we want to do”.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  There are several things there.  I am not sure the rouble’s decline is associated with any kind of fraud. 


Tony Arbour AM:  No, indeed, it is not, but I am referring ‑‑


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  What has caused that is the activity of the market. 


Tony Arbour AM:  -- to a domino effect which you would get. 


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Yes.  Only peripherally, I expect.  There may be frauds in the Russian economy but the market is simply dumping the rouble.  It is important to distinguish between two types of crime here, Tony.  There is the threat of cybercrime generally to paralyse the City banks or to immobilise transport and then there is fraud of the kind that you rightly describe that is going on the whole time, internet fraud of one type or another.  It is important to be vigilant about both.


What you say about making banks aware of their responsibilities and reporting what is going on is very important.  I also think that the police clearly have a duty to financial institutions as they do to all institutions to protect them from this kind of attack.  You asked specifically whether we should have a statutory obligation upon the police to guard against financial cybercrime.  I am not certain that is necessary.  They have a general duty.  Both the MPS and the City of London Police have a duty to guard against crime of all types.  I do not see the need, frankly, for that. 


Tony Arbour AM:  I understand that, but given the importance of the financial sector to London as a whole and its continuing importance, this is something that should be given a greater ‑‑


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  It is probably something that requires particular vigilance. 


Tony Arbour AM:  -- greater recognition that this is an important matter.  It is very much a hidden thing, reported principally on the pink pages.  Maybe if the ‘red tops’ dealt more with this thing, we would consider it to be rather more important and perhaps this should be given a far greater priority for the MPS than it currently has. 


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Perhaps you should offer a powerful and pungent article on this subject to the Daily Mirror or perhaps one of the brilliant journalists who are here might want to take that theme up and see if they can do some freelance work for a ‘red top’ on the crucial subject of the threat of cyber-fraud to London. 


Tony Arbour AM:  OK, you are very kind.  Thank you, Chairman.  Chairman, I have finished.