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What Is Dora and Why Is It Critical

July 20, 2023
Edward Chopskie

The Digital Operational Resilience Act (DORA) is a new regulation that was adopted by the European Union (EU)  in December 2022. The act aims to improve the digital resilience of the financial sector by requiring financial institutions to implement robust measures to prevent, detect, and respond to ICT-related disruptions and threats. The core goal is to prevent and mitigate cyber threats.

ICT (Information and Communication Technology) risks refer to the potential threats and vulnerabilities that can impact the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information and technology systems. Here are some common ICT risks:

  • Cybersecurity threats: These include malware, viruses, hacking, data breaches, phishing attacks, ransomware, and other malicious activities that can compromise sensitive information and disrupt systems.
  • Data breaches: Unauthorized access to sensitive data, either due to external attacks or internal breaches, can result in the loss, theft, or exposure of valuable information.
  • System downtime: Unplanned outages or system failures can disrupt business operations, leading to financial losses, reduced productivity, and customer dissatisfaction.
  • Software vulnerabilities: Weaknesses or flaws in software applications can be exploited by attackers to gain unauthorized access, manipulate data, or disrupt system functionality.
  • Human error: Mistakes made by employees, such as accidental data deletion, misconfiguration of systems, or falling for social engineering scams, can expose organizations to significant risks.
  • Insider threats: Employees or authorized individuals who misuse their access privileges to steal data, sabotage systems, or compromise security pose a risk to organizations.
  • Lack of IT governance: Inadequate policies, procedures, and controls related to ICT can result in non-compliance, weak security practices, and inefficient resource allocation.
  • Infrastructure failures: Failures in hardware components, network infrastructure, or power supply can disrupt ICT operations and cause data loss or downtime.
  • Third-party risks: Dependence on external vendors, cloud service providers, or partners introduces risks associated with their security practices, reliability, and compliance.
  • Regulatory and legal compliance: Failure to comply with industry regulations, data protection laws, or privacy requirements can result in legal repercussions, financial penalties, and reputational damage.

The primary purpose of DORA is to ensure the operational resilience of the EU financial sector. DORA complements existing laws such as the Network and Information Security Directive (NISD) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

DORA applies to all financial institutions in the EU. That includes traditional financial entities such as banks, investment firms, and credit institutions, and non-traditional entities, like crypto-asset service providers and crowdfunding platforms. 

DORA also applies to some entities typically excluded from financial regulations. For example, third-party service providers that supply financial firms with ICT systems and services such as cloud service providers (CSPs) and data centers must follow DORA requirements. Lastly, DORA also covers firms that provide critical third-party information services such as credit rating services and data analytics providers. 

Organizations covered by Digital Operational Resilience Act need to implement risk management processes that help to identify potential vulnerabilities to credible cyber threats and put policies and security controls into place to protect against these risks. Organizations must test their ICT systems regularly to evaluate the strength of their protections and identify ‌vulnerabilities.

The key requirements of DORA include:

  • Risk management: Financial institutions must have a comprehensive risk management framework in place to identify, assess, and mitigate ICT risks.
  • Incident reporting: Financial institutions must report all significant ICT incidents to their national supervisory authorities.
  • Resilience testing: Financial institutions must regularly test their resilience to ICT disruptions.
  • Third-party oversight: Financial institutions must perform due diligence on critical third-party providers and monitor their performance on an ongoing basis.

Testing applications clearly falls into resilience testing. Software resilience testing is a method of software testing that focuses on ensuring that applications and APIs will perform well in real-life or chaotic conditions. In other words, it tests an application, or API’s resiliency, or ability to withstand stressful or challenging factors. 

Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) can be an excellent addition for resilience testing. (DAST) primarily focuses on identifying vulnerabilities and security flaws within applications in a compiled environment and during runtime. While its main purpose is not specifically related to resiliency testing, DAST can indirectly support aspects of resiliency testing through the identification and remediation of security weaknesses. Below are a few ways that DAST can contribute to resilience testing:

1. Identification of security weaknesses: DAST tools actively scan applications to identify security vulnerabilities such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), and insecure configurations amongst many others. By addressing these vulnerabilities, organizations can improve the resilience of their applications against potential attacks that may impact availability or compromise data integrity. A developer-centric DAST should be part of the development lifecycle to identify and remediate vulnerabilities earlier in the SDLC well before production.  

2. Validation of error handling and exception management: Resilient applications should be capable of handling unexpected errors and exceptions gracefully. DAST can help identify areas within the application where error handling and exception management may be inadequate or inconsistent, allowing organizations to improve their resiliency by addressing these issues.

3. Integration with broader testing and monitoring processes: DAST can be integrated into a broader testing and monitoring framework. By incorporating DAST into an overall resiliency testing strategy, organizations can assess how security vulnerabilities may impact the resiliency of their applications. 

While DAST may not directly focus on all aspects of resiliency testing, its ability to identify and remediate security weaknesses can contribute to overall application resilience. And of course it is important to complement DAST with other testing techniques and methodologies that specifically target resiliency to ensure comprehensive testing coverage.

To summarize, by imposing these regulations, DORA aims to foster a more secure and resilient financial sector, where institutions are well-prepared to navigate operational risks, withstand cyber threats, and effectively respond to potential disruptions. Compliance with DORA is not only a legal requirement but also a means to instill trust and confidence among customers and stakeholders in the financial industry. And of course there are public reprimands and fines for non-compliance Institutions may face fines up to 10 million euros or 5% of their total annual turnover. Download how Bright helps organizations become DORA compliant here

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