Cyber threats are among the most complex and interconnected risks that businesses and communities face today. A cyber attack on a critical infrastructure, such as a financial services payments system, could have devastating consequences for the global economy and society.

That’s the premise of a hypothetical but plausible scenario developed by Lloyd’s of London, as part of its systemic risk research. The scenario explores the impact of a cyber attack that disrupts the operations of a major payments system for several days, affecting millions of customers and transactions worldwide.

According to the scenario, such an attack could cause global economic losses of $3.5trn over five years, equivalent to 4% of global GDP in 2020. The United States, China, and Japan would be the most affected countries, while Europe and Asia-Pacific would be the most affected regions.  The recovery time and resilience factors would vary depending on the level of preparedness, response, and coordination among different stakeholders.

The cyber attack scenario is one of nine different low likelihood, high impact events that Lloyd’s has explored as part of its systemic risk research.

Loss model of a global cyber-attack on a major financial services payment system

Source: LLoyd’s and Cambridge Centre for Risk Studies

These scenarios are designed to help businesses and communities understand and prepare for the most complex and fast-changing risks they face.

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