Anti-Money Laundering and Cybersecurity

Blog / Anti-Money Laundering and Cybersecurity

In the modern digital age, the rise of cyber threats has led to increased attention to cybersecurity. Cybersecurity has become a critical concern for businesses and governments worldwide as cyber attacks have become more sophisticated and targeted. With the growing risk of cyber threats, businesses, and governments have turned their attention towards ensuring the security and integrity of their information systems, data, and networks. One area where cybersecurity has become increasingly important is in Anti-Money Laundering (AML) systems. This article will examine the relationship between cybersecurity and AML systems, with reference to the FinCEN 2016 guide.

Key Terminology

  • Cyber-Event: An unauthorized attempt to access, breach, or manipulate electronic systems, services, resources, or information.
  • Cyber-Enabled Crime: Criminal activities (e.g., scamming, extortion, hacking) that are carried out or enabled by electronic means, such as through the use of computers, networks, or other digital devices.
  • Cyber-Related Information: Information that pertains to the electronic activities of individuals, organizations, or entities, including technical data (e.g., IP addresses, timestamps) and behavioral data (e.g., online habits, social media interactions). Cyber-intelligence also encompasses a wide range of other digital information and metadata.

Defining Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is the practice of protecting electronic systems, networks, and devices from unauthorized access, theft, damage, and other cyber threats. It involves implementing measures that prevent and detect cyber attacks, as well as ensuring the security and privacy of data and information. Cybersecurity encompasses a wide range of technologies, processes, and practices, including firewalls, antivirus software, intrusion detection systems, encryption, access control, and incident response. The goal of cybersecurity is to provide a secure and trustworthy environment for electronic systems, networks, and data.

The Relationship between Cybersecurity and AML Systems

AML systems are designed to detect, prevent, and report money laundering activities. Money laundering is the process of disguising the proceeds of illegal activities as legitimate funds. Money laundering is a serious crime that can have a detrimental impact on the integrity of financial systems and the economy as a whole. AML systems aim to prevent money laundering by identifying suspicious transactions and reporting them to relevant authorities.

Cybersecurity is closely related to AML systems as both aim to protect electronic systems, networks, and data. AML systems rely heavily on electronic systems and data to detect and prevent money laundering activities. These systems analyze vast amounts of data, including transaction records, customer information, and other financial data, to identify suspicious activity. The accuracy and effectiveness of AML systems depend on the integrity of the data and the security of the systems that store and process that data.

AML systems are vulnerable to cyber threats, such as hacking, data breaches, and other attacks. Cybercriminals may target AML systems to gain access to sensitive financial information or manipulate transaction records to disguise money laundering activities. Therefore, AML systems must be secure and protected from cyber threats to ensure that the information they rely on is accurate, trustworthy, and free from manipulation.

The FinCEN 2016 Guide

In 2016, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued a guide for financial institutions on cybersecurity and the prevention of cyber-enabled financial crime. The guide highlights the importance of cybersecurity in preventing money laundering activities and emphasizes the need for financial institutions to have robust cybersecurity controls in place. With the release of the guide, financial institutions have faced the challenge of integrating cyber incidents into their AML programs. As cyber threats continue to increase worldwide, it is becoming increasingly important for financial institutions to incorporate their compliance departments into the Information Management and Information Security ("IM/IT") department.

The guide outlines five key components of an effective cybersecurity program for financial institutions. These components are:

  1. Risk Assessment: Financial institutions must conduct a thorough risk assessment to identify potential cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities.
  2. Risk Management: Financial institutions must implement appropriate controls and safeguards to manage cybersecurity risks.
  3. Information Sharing: Financial institutions should participate in information-sharing programs to enhance their understanding of cybersecurity threats and to stay up-to-date on the latest threats and vulnerabilities.
  4. Incident Response: Financial institutions must have an incident response plan in place to respond quickly and effectively to cyber attacks.
  5. Continuous Improvement: Financial institutions must continuously review and update their cybersecurity program to address new and emerging threats.

The guide also emphasizes the importance of the role of senior management in ensuring effective cybersecurity practices. Senior management must provide leadership, establish a culture of cybersecurity, and allocate sufficient resources to support the implementation of effective cybersecurity controls.

To ensure effective integration of cybersecurity into AML programs, senior money laundering managers in banks, brokerage houses, and other financial services firms should understand their company's cybersecurity regimes and be responsible for the resources and knowledge of the responsible experts. Therefore, staff from fraud, IT, or IS teams should be included in AML programs. These staff can access technical information, such as Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and geographic locations where logins are made to the system. The inclusion of such technical information in subsequent Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) is important for the successful implementation of a cyber integration program.

Russian cybercriminals are using machine learning to adapt and evade sanctions imposed after the 2022 invasion of ukraine

Reporting Cyber Events 

The proliferation of cyber incidents and cyber-efficient crime poses a significant threat to consumers and the US financial system. FinCEN publishes this advisory to help financial institutions understand the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) obligations related to cyber events and cyber-efficient crime. This advisory emphasizes how BSA reporting helps US authorities fight cyber incidents and cyber-efficient crime.

A Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) is a tool provided to track suspicious activities that will not be marked as usual under other reports and can cover almost all unusual events. SAR is part of anti-money laundering laws and regulations that have become much stricter since 2001. The most general purpose of this report is to identify customers involved in money laundering, fraud, or terrorist funding.

Advisory states should consider any cyber incident a suspicious transaction. A financial institution must send complete and accurate SARs that contain all SAR-related cyber information, such as IP addresses, virtual wallet information, and cyber incident information. Also, FinCEN recommends that financial institutions include information about the cyber system in their BSA / AML monitoring efforts.

Furthermore, information sharing must be shared, including cyber information, between money laundering, terrorism financing, and reporting to protect and report against cyber-effective crime. This information sharing should be done with the following:

  • Cybersecurity units
  • Risk departments
  • Fraud prevention units
  • BSA/AML management
  • AML intelligence units
  • AML analysts/investigators
  • Network administrators

With the rise of cyber threats in the modern digital age, cybersecurity has become a critical concern for businesses and governments worldwide. Cybersecurity and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) systems are closely related, as both aim to protect electronic systems, networks, and data. The accuracy and effectiveness of AML systems depend on the integrity of the data and the security of the systems that store and process that data. To ensure effective integration of cybersecurity into AML programs, financial institutions must have a thorough risk assessment, implement appropriate controls and safeguards, participate in information-sharing programs, have an incident response plan in place, and continuously review and update their cybersecurity program to address new and emerging threats. With the guidance of the FinCEN 2016 guide, financial institutions can take the necessary measures to ensure the security and integrity of their AML systems for screening and monitoring, ultimately preventing cyber-enabled financial crimes, such as money laundering, fraud, and terrorist funding. By adopting an effective cybersecurity program, businesses and governments can provide a secure and trustworthy environment for their electronic systems, networks, and data, ultimately protecting their customers and the economy as a whole.

You Might Also Like