To enhance prevention and detection of cybercrimes which pose a "significant threat" to the security of the nation's financial system, the U. S. Treasury's office of Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued an Advisory on October 25, 2016, to encourage reporting of suspected or known cyber-attacks, and to clarify the responsibilities outlined in the Bank Secrecy Act related to such attacks.

Reporting of suspicious transactions or attempted transactions is mandatory in cases involving $5,000 or more in money or assets. The Advisory concludes that if a cyber-attack involves a suspicious transaction, all information about the cyber-attack should be included in the filed Suspicious Activity Report (SAR).

The Advisory also notes that while cyber-attacks often constitute criminal activity, they can also be a means to commit unauthorized transactions. Improperly obtaining funds indirectly through ransomware attacks, or sale of stolen credit card numbers and proprietary information, constitutes a criminal offense just as does direct access by fraud, identity theft and misappropriation. Financial institutions should be aware of FinCEN's conclusion outlined in the Advisory that if a financial institution "knows, suspects or has reason to suspect that a cyber-event [an attempt to obtain unauthorized electronic access to an electronic systems or information] was intended, in whole or in part, to conduct, facilitate or affect a transaction …, it should be considered part of an attempt to conduct a suspicious transaction or series of transactions." According to the Advisory, most any cyber-attack attempt on a financial institution would trigger a mandatory SAR filing.

FinCEN's Advisory included a reminder of various other obligations required by financial institutions regulators when filing cyber event SARs.

To read the full FinCEN Advisory, click here.