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European Banking Federation (EBF)

The EBF agrees in principle with the proposal to increase the threshold for transactions affected in the higher impact level and believes that this would be a positive change.
However, as regards large banks, such a change does not lead to a major reduction in reporting incidents, especially for operational incidents, where even in case of limited service downtime the threshold could be reached. Therefore, we would be supportive of an even higher amount threshold (e.g. 25 million EUR), particularly for large banks whose average transaction value will typically be higher, as the proposed threshold is still likely to be triggering reporting of low impact operational incidents which do not have significant impact to the PSP or PSUs.
As a further hypothesis, additionally to raising the threshold in the absolute amount, it could be proposed to refer only to the percentage threshold so that the achievement of that threshold is not linked to the size of the operations of the bank.
The EBF agrees in principle with the proposal to raise the ‘Transactions affected’ criteria concerning the lower impact level. However, the inclusion of a time factor might cause confusion with the “service downtime” criteria. The distinction between the criteria “duration of incident” and “service downtime” should be more clearly defined, as both relate to a PSP’s ability to process transactions and provided services to PSUs.
Inserting a new time threshold, relating to the duration of the incident may generate further complexity during the assessment phase of the reporting need; this threshold would also be applicable only to operational incidents, creating further complications in the assessment methodology. Since there is already a specific threshold on the duration of the disservice, the EBF is of the view that it would be more useful to refer to the criterion relating to service downtime, which, in association with the two low-impact thresholds (‘Transactions affected 'and' ‘Payment service users affected’), would in any case trigger the reporting, all with a view to simplifying the evaluation algorithm.
The EBF understands the purpose of the introduction of a new criterion for incident classification to capture additional relevant security incidents and to ensure that NCAs have appropriate oversight of major incidents with impact to a PSPs systems and security protocols.
However, the definition of “breach of security measures” (as set out in paragraph 1.3.iii of the proposed GL) is too broad and requires clarification.
In order to narrow the scope of said definition, we recommend that it is limited to breaches or violations that have a direct link or connection to the incident to be reported. That is, the incident to be reported must directly flow from the breach or violation of the security measure. If there are other breaches or violations of security measures that are not connected or indirectly connected to the incident, these should not be part of the determination of what constitutes a “major” incident, as it would lead to unnecessary and inaccurate reporting which could undermine the validity of any conclusions drawn from data supplied to NCAs.
In addition to the breadth of the definition, the inclusion of breach of security measures, introduces a further specification within the methodology of incident reporting, adding complexity.
Regarding the goal of this criterion, it should be better clarified whether it is to gather information on unintentional deeds as well. In the "malicious actions" category, the following items are described that do not clearly express intent as such and could be understood as unintentional actions: "information gathering" and "information context”. This could lead to possible divergences of interpretation, as it would seem applicable also to operational incidents, e.g. related to unintentional actions such as human error.
Also, either due to intentional malicious actions or unintentional actions, in a scenario where a single individual’s data could be compromised, the other two lower impact criteria would still most likely be triggered, which would be disproportionate compared to other incidents reported.
Furthermore, a breach of security measures could compromise the availability, confidentiality or integrity of security systems, data and applications, regardless of whether it affects payment transactions or other operations. In such a case, if the breach has been assessed as a major security incident, proper reporting to the European Central Bank (ECB) must be made. Therefore, the inclusion of the above criterion seems to be a duplication of what is already foreseen in terms of reporting to the ECB.
In the unwelcome case that the new criterion will still be used as proposed, it needs to be clarified how it should be aligned with the cyber-incident reporting framework established by the European Central Bank for EUR countries about significant cyber and security incidents. The EBF would also welcome the EBA providing examples to help guide PSPs when considering these types of incidents, to guarantee that PSPs report incidents of which the NCAs and the EBA want to have appropriate knowledge.
The EBF agrees with the proposed changes, with the following remarks:
GL 2.1: In certain cases, specific information is challenging to provide (e.g. economic impact). All fields suggested in the amended template are not possible to fill in for all kind of incidents. Therefore, it should be possible to leave a field blank or set “n/a”, or to be filled if best estimate is acceptable value. As mentioned above, the EBF stresses the importance of keeping the amount of information in the reports at the lowest possible level.
GL 2.14: The revised wording implies that an intermediate report would be due every 3 days even if there are no significant changes, which seems to contradict section 24 point 3 of the consultation, which suggests simplification by removing the obligation for PSPs to provide updates to intermediate report every 3 working days.
GL 2.21: The right way to deliver information to the NCA should be clarified. Specifically, clarifications are required on whether the final report should be filed with the updated information and whether there is a need to submit the complete final report if the incident is reclassified.
A similar clarification on the “service downtime” as for reporting criterion would be welcome, i.e. that downtime applies from the moment of classification and not the detection, since incidents sometimes start as non-major and then evolve to major over time (e.g. login issues for a small portion of customers, that grows to issues for a large portion of customers). Another example of the need to further clarify “service downtime” is when the last daily payment batch process service has dropped, in which case, even if the service/process is immediately restored and the incident duration might be only 5 minutes, the batch will be processed next morning, meaning that the absolute downtime can be 12 hours (or even more if the third party payment infrastructure is not accessible, e.g. due to holidays).
It would be helpful for the GL to provide further clarity on a PSP’s major incident reporting obligations in the case of third-party incidents beyond the PSP’s direct control which affect the PSPs ability for process transactions. Examples include incidents at the clearing or at a correspondent bank which may affect their ability to process payments on behalf of the PSP.
The proposed clarifications made in this consultation in relation to the scope of the GLs by which “they apply also to major incidents affecting functions outsourced by payment service providers to third parties and that these incidents should also be communicated from PSPs to NCAs” brings challenges to the PSPs, as they do not own the timings in these cases and are subject to the third party communicating to them in due time. This is why it should be left to PSPs the discretion whether to outsource to third-party the responsibility for the notification, as the party responsible for the major incident. Therefore, without prejudice to the provisions on prior information to the NCA and the requirements to be met (Guideline 3.1.), this discretion would allow governance and responsibilities to be maintained in accordance with what each PSP defines in its general operational and security policy for incident reporting, as set out in Guideline 4. Alternatively, we would ask the EBA to consider allowing additional time for PSPs to collate the necessary information and report the incident and provide ongoing notifications to the NCA to allow PSPs sufficient time to liaise with the third party.
The EBF is of the view that standardized template should be used for all reporting purposes and supports the continuation of using the MS Excel format as a first preference, since it is flexible, commonly known and widely supported across PSPs.
A PDF format would also be welcomed as alternative format that is optionally available, for better readability and providing a simplified process for manually populating incident reports along with MS Excel. Additionally, we would also recommend the introduction of further optionally available alternative formats -such as “xml”- to enable PSPs to automate creation of incident reports where feasible.
Ideally, an online platform for reporting purposes could contribute to better address the format issues. Alternatively, as the EBF acknowledges that building cross-country/NCAs systems might still pose a challenge, we propose the creation of a centralised repository (e.g. on the dedicated EBA website), where each PSP can upload/download reports.
The EBF agrees with the changes. Simplifying the process and extending submission timeframes enable more extensive and complete reports. It should be clarified well in advance how the national NCAs will communicate the individual reference code to PSPs.
In general, the EBF supports the proposed changes. However, we have some specific suggestions for more understandable terms and other comments to the proposed sub-categories:
- "fields seeking information on whether the incident has been reported to other authorities and what their decisions/recommendations for said incident may be;": This provides very little added value, as a very limited number of cases are to be reported to other agencies.
- "assessment of the actions taken during the duration of the incident ": The inclusion of this field is not clear. Specifically, it is unclear whether this means objective assessment on whether the actions during the incident were adequate or effective. The actions and lessons learnt are already covered by the current template and the EBF sees little added value concerning this field.
- The proposed sub-categories stated in section 32 (Malicious actions) and section 34 (Process failure) should be consistently presented, i.e. either describe the Process failures as following:
monitoring and control, communication, operations, etc., or by adding an adverb to specify what kind of failure, e.g. deficient monitoring and control, communication issues, improper operations. In the suggestions presented in the consultation paper, it is a combination of both, therefore inconsistent.
- In section 32, the proposed sub-category is “Information context security”. However, in Cyber incident taxonomy the term “Information content security” is used. This terminology should be aligned.
- Into the root cause category “System failure”, we recommend including “Infrastructure failure” in order to capture such failure type.
The intermediate report references 'describe how the security policy was violated' - this definition is not apparent under the 'breach of security measures' definition in the GLs. If this is the intention, this piece should be referenced in the definition. Also, the overall impact cites 'availability, integrity, confidentiality, authenticity' - the link between the 'breach of security measures' and the overall impact criteria should be more clearly coming through. To this end, we recommend narrowing the scope of the “breach of security measures” definition, as proposed above, under Question 3.
The economic impact cites 'potentially missed business opportunities, potential legal fines'. This is not in line with the reporting requirements of operational risk events, where financial impact should be considered in actual terms and should not include opportunity costs (except near miss events).
The reputational impact cites '...incident could affect the reputation of the PSP (e.g. media coverage, potential legal or regulatory infringement...)...' Mixing reputational and regulatory impact of an event could prove to be difficult in the internal classification of incidents, as well as in the reporting process and record keeping.
Lessons learnt references seem to have been removed from the Final Report. There are benefits to keep lesson learnt as an optional information within the template
Dimos KARALIS
E