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How DORA is redefining financial compliance in the EU

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By Paul Dwyer, 19 February 2024

In the intricate tapestry of financial operations, the Digital Operational Resilience Act (DORA) stands out as the European Union's beacon of strategic direction. This legislation – which entered into force on 16 January 2023 with a compliance deadline of 17 January 2025 – is more than a regulatory framework; it's an essential shield for the financial sector's digital lifeline. With cyber threats escalating in complexity, the implications of DORA reverberate profoundly, especially for those working in compliance.

This article seeks to explain DORA's critical role and demonstrate how compliance professionals can leverage this directive to further their career.

Unpacking DORA

DORA is the EU's countermeasure against the rising tide of cyber risks, conceived to reinforce the operational resilience of financial institutions. This act mandates that entities within the EU's financial sphere build formidable risk management frameworks, institute stringent cybersecurity measures, and sustain comprehensive incident reporting mechanisms.

To translate this into action, organisations are compelled to embrace advanced cybersecurity protocols such as multi-factor authentication, encryption, and regular security audits. These measures form a digital fortress, ensuring the integrity, availability and confidentiality of critical financial services.

Incident reporting is not simply about record-keeping; it's a reflective practice that feeds into an iterative process of strengthening cyber defences. DORA obliges firms to maintain incident logs, analyse breaches to understand their root causes, and reconfigure their cyber strategy based on these insights. They must also ensure that their response plans are dynamic, incorporating lessons learned from past incidents to bolster their resilience against future threats.

Proactive risk identification

The quest to pinpoint ICT-related risks is a voyage through a digital sea brimming with covert perils. Financial entities are encouraged to deploy sophisticated risk assessment tools, capable of dissecting and forecasting the myriad of ways their ICT infrastructures might be compromised. This is not a one-time, tick-box exercise but an ongoing strategic process.

Entities must also cast a vigilant eye over their third-party associations, as these partnerships frequently harbour latent vulnerabilities, whether through service providers or software dependencies. By conducting thorough security assessments and insisting on stringent security clauses in third-party contracts, entities can convert potential vulnerabilities into pillars of strength.

Cultivating a culture of transparency

DORA advocates for a culture steeped in vigilance and transparency, with a strong emphasis on incident reporting and information sharing. Financial entities must implement automated systems to track and manage ICT incidents, formulating a cross-departmental incident response team, and conducting regular simulation exercises to ensure a state of perpetual readiness.

This transparency extends beyond internal processes; it necessitates a collaborative effort within the entire financial ecosystem. Entities are expected to share key information about cyber threats and vulnerabilities with regulators and peers, fostering a unified front against cyber adversaries. This collective intelligence network becomes a central pillar in the sector's capacity to predict, prevent, and counteract cyber threats.

Educational imperatives and ICA's role

Acknowledging the critical role of education in combating cyber threats, DORA emphasises the need for comprehensive ICT risk training across all organisational levels.

To meet this imperative, the ICA, in collaboration with the ICTTF, offers the DORA Certified Compliance Specialist (DCCS) course. This programme is tailored to illuminate the complex terrain of DORA compliance, providing participants with not only compliance expertise but also a strategic understanding of operational resilience.

Harnessing expert knowledge

To help further bolster the professional acumen of ICA students, as President of the ICTTF I will be providing an in-depth exploration of DORA’s nuances in a dedicated ICA webinar scheduled on 12 June 2024. This is an unmissable event for those aiming to stay at the forefront of financial compliance. Keep an eye out on the ICA Events page for further details, while ICA members will also receive sign up details direct to their inbox.

The advent of DORA signifies a pivotal juncture for financial compliance in the EU, challenging and enabling compliance professionals to rethink their approach to regulations. Through educational resources like the DCCS course and insightful webinars, the ICA, together with the ICTTF, will provide the keys to unlock the potential that DORA compliance promises, and pave the way for career progression and innovation in the dynamic sphere of financial compliance.


About the author

Paul C Dwyer is President of the International Cyber Threat Task Force (ICTTF). The ICTTF was established in 2010, as a not-for-profit initiative promoting the ecosystem of an international independent non-partisan cyber security community.