Banking and finance is a critical infrastructure characterized by entities, such as retail and commercial organizations, investment institutions, exchange boards, trading houses, and reserve systems, and associated operational organizations, government operations, and support activities, that are involved in all manner of monetary transactions, including its storage for saving purposes, its investment for income purposes, its exchange for payment purposes, and its disbursement in the form of loans and other financial instruments.
The principal vulnerabilities of the banking and finance sector are physical in nature. Its payments systems and its securities and commodities exchanges with their clearing and settlement organizations are vital to other parts of the banking and financial system and the economy at large. There are few of them, and in some cases, they are geographically concentrated. To back up its payments systems, the Federal Reserve has three geographically dispersed and “hardened” sites, each capable of completing the full volume of transactions sent over its wire transfer system.
Similar back-up and “hardening” of facilities can be found in the other electronic payments and electronic messaging systems, and most exchanges have a variety of contingency arrangements to rechannel trading activities should anyone’s facilities become inoperable. In addition, the principal clearing and settlement organizations for the major stock exchanges have back-up sites some distance from the primary sites, as well as cold storage sites for data.
These arrangements, together with strong measures to “harden” primary facilities, greatly reduce the overall vulnerabilities of this sector, but there remains risk from any event that disrupts telecommunications service and electric power within the geographic area in which key facilities are concentrated.
- President's Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection, Critical Foundations: Protecting America’s Infrastructures 12-13, Glossary (Oct. 1997) (full-text).