With the European Union’s economy becoming ever more dependent on digital platforms, it’s become critical for the region to ensure the integrity, security, and resilience of these systems. Enter the Digital Operational Resilience Act (DORA), a comprehensive legislative framework designed to bolster the digital resilience of the financial sector within the European Union (EU).

In this article, we’ll answer “what is DORA?” and examine key elements of the regulation, benefits for EU citizens, compliance requirements for businesses, current limitations, and recommendations for staying relevant in an environment fraught with cyber risk.

Digital Operational Resilience Act (DORA)

What is DORA?

DORA, or more formally, the Digital Operational Resilience Act, requires financial entities, from banks to crypto–asset service providers, to ensure that their digital operations can withstand all types of disruptions, ensuring continuity in financial services for consumers and businesses. This legislation is part of a broader strategy by the EU to enhance the operational resilience of the financial sector, providing a framework for mitigating the risk of cyber threats and other ICT (Information Communication Technology) related incidents. By setting strict requirements for digital risk management, DORA not only protects the financial sector from cyber threats but also enhances the EU’s financial stability and consumer trust in digital financial services.

DORA Origins

DORA emerged as a response to the financial sector’s increasing reliance on technology platforms to generate, share, and store sensitive financial information critical to the EU’s financial markets and economic well–being. Disruptions caused by increasingly sophisticated and frequent cyberattacks could cripple the EU’s economy. The EU’s financial sector has in fact become a prime target for cyberattacks and prompted the European Commission to take action. DORA was introduced in late 2022 to provide a unified approach to “digital operational resilience” across all member states, ensuring that the financial sector’s critical infrastructure is adequately protected.

Since its inception, DORA has undergone various revisions, reflecting the dynamic nature of the technology landscape and the need for a flexible regulatory approach. Input from financial industry stakeholders, cybersecurity experts, and regulatory bodies have been instrumental in maintaining DORA’s effectiveness and relevance.

Key Components of DORA

At its core, DORA is structured around the principle of operational resilience, focusing on the capacity of financial entities to absorb and recover from disruptions, no matter their origin. This is achieved through a set of stringent requirements that cover areas such as incident reporting, digital operational risk management, and third–party risk management.

At the heart of DORA is the mandate for financial entities, including banks, insurance companies, and other financial services providers, to develop and maintain an effective mechanism for incident reporting. This mechanism is designed to ensure that when significant cyber incidents occur, they are quickly and accurately reported to the relevant authorities, both at the national level and across the EU. By compelling financial entities to report significant cyber incidents promptly, regulators are equipped with the necessary information to assess the impact of such incidents on the financial system’s stability and integrity. Regulators can then take appropriate measures to mitigate risks, offer guidance, and, if necessary, coordinate a cross–border response to manage incidents that have the potential to affect the financial sector across multiple jurisdictions. Comprehensive incident reporting includes processes for identifying, managing, and recovering from cyber incidents, alongside protocols for timely communication with authorities.

DORA also places a strong emphasis on managing and mitigating the risks associated with third–party Information and Communication Technology (ICT) service providers. DORA requires financial institutions to maintain a comprehensive register of all their third–party ICT service arrangements and conduct thorough assessments of the potential risks associated with each of their ICT service providers. This assessment process involves evaluating the provider’s performance, reliability, data protection measures, and any other factors that could impact the financial institution’s operational resilience.

These and other DORA components ultimately compel financial institutions to adopt a more proactive and comprehensive approach to managing external risks. By doing so, financial services institutions bolster the overall stability and resilience of the financial system, safeguarding it against operational disruptions that could impact financial markets, threaten the security of customers’ assets, or undermine the integrity of the financial system.

How DORA Compliance Benefits Consumers and Citizens

By mandating financial entities to implement robust digital risk management practices, DORA minimizes the risk of service disruptions, data breaches, and financial losses resulting from cyberattacks. This not only protects consumers’ financial assets but also strengthens their confidence in utilizing digital financial services.

Additionally, DORA’s focus on transparency and accountability ensures that consumers are better informed about the operational resilience of their financial service providers. The legislation’s mandatory incident reporting requirements compel entities to disclose significant cyber incidents, providing consumers with a clearer understanding of the risks associated with their digital financial activities and the measures in place to mitigate those risks.

Compliance Requirements Under DORA

Failure to comply with DORA introduces considerable financial, legal, and reputational risks. Financial penalties can be significant, reflecting the seriousness of the violation and its potential to destabilize the financial system. These penalties are not arbitrarily decided but are carefully calibrated to match the scale and impact of the non–compliance, ensuring that the punishment not only serves as a deterrent but also addresses any undue advantage gained or loss avoided through the non–compliance.

Beyond the immediate financial repercussions, legal consequences also loom large for entities found in violation of DORA. These can range from enforcement actions, such as orders to cease certain practices, to sanctions that might include restrictions on business activities or even the revoking of licenses. The legal process can also entail lengthy investigations and the potential for litigation, further draining resources and diverting attention from an entity’s core business activities.

The damage to an organization’s reputation, however, can be even more detrimental and longer lasting than financial or legal consequences. Non–compliance that suggests a failure to protect systems that process, store, and share clients’ sensitive financial information can erode consumer trust and confidence, which are foundational to any business but especially critical in the finance sector. The loss of trust can lead to a decline in the customer base as existing and potential customers move to competitors perceived as more reliable or trustworthy. Additionally, reputational damage can affect a financial services company’s market position, diminishing its competitive edge and potentially impacting its stock price and overall valuation.

Who is Responsible for Enforcing DORA Compliance

DORA compliance enforcement falls under the jurisdiction of national competent authorities (NCAs) within each EU member state. These regulatory bodies oversee, evaluate, and ensure that financial entities operate within the stringent guidelines set forth by DORA. The European Supervisory Authorities (ESAs), comprising the European Banking Authority (EBA), the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA), and the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA), play a pivotal role in shaping the regulatory framework and guiding the NCAs in enforcement.

NCA enforcement powers can include conducting audits, demanding reports, and imposing penalties on non–compliant organizations. These measures ensure that financial entities not only understand “what is DORA” but also rigorously implement its standards to safeguard the EU’s financial sector from digital disruptions.

DORA Compliance and Adapting to Changes in Technology and Cybersecurity

The never–ending advancements in technology and cybercrime challenge DORA’s effectiveness and relevance. To stay relevant and effective, DORA requires periodic amendments and updates, reflecting changes in technology, cybercrime tactics, and the global regulatory landscape.

A collaborative approach involving professionals from various sectors can significantly enhance DORA’s impact. For example, engaging cybersecurity experts with expertise in identifying, analyzing, and mitigating cyber threats are invaluable. These experts bring a depth of understanding about the nature of cyber risks and the tactics, techniques, and procedures employed by cyber adversaries. Incorporating technology providers into this collaborative mix is equally critical. These entities design, develop, and update the hardware and software that form the backbone of our digital infrastructure. By working closely with cybersecurity professionals, technology providers can ensure that their products are not only resilient to current threats but are also adaptable to counter future vulnerabilities. This partnership allows for the development of more robust security measures, encryption protocols, and threat detection tools, thus enhancing the overall security posture of organizations.

International regulatory bodies also play a crucial role in this collaborative effort. Cyber threats are not confined by national boundaries, making international cooperation essential for a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy. These bodies can set standards and regulations that ensure a unified approach to cybersecurity across different jurisdictions. By cooperating on cybersecurity practices and policies, these international entities can facilitate information sharing, swift response to threats, and the establishment of common protocols for incident reporting and response.

This strategic collaboration leads to the identification of new vulnerabilities and the development of adaptive cybersecurity measures that are essential in protecting the technology platforms that financial services institutions so heavily rely upon. And by strengthening cyber defenses in the EU, these efforts contribute significantly to the security and resilience of the global financial infrastructure.

Best Practices for Achieving DORA Compliance

To ensure successful compliance with DORA, organizations should adopt a holistic approach to digital operational resilience. This involves integrating DORA’s requirements into the organizational culture and operational processes. Establishing a dedicated team to oversee DORA compliance can ensure that practices are consistently applied and updated. Investing in cybersecurity training and awareness programs for employees can also reduce the risk of breaches due to human error, thereby strengthening the organization’s overall resilience.

Engaging with third–party ICT service providers to assess and manage risks is another best practice. Entities should perform due diligence on their providers to ensure they comply with DORA’s requirements, particularly in areas such as data protection and incident reporting. Regularly reviewing and testing digital operational resilience measures, including incident response plan and resilience testing, can help organizations prepare for and mitigate the impacts of disruptions.

Ensuring DORA Widespread Adoption and Success

For DORA to achieve its objectives, widespread adoption and effective implementation across the financial sector are essential. Regulators play a key role in promoting understanding and compliance with DORA through guidance, support, and enforcement actions. They can facilitate knowledge sharing and collaboration among industry participants, helping to disseminate best practices and innovative approaches to digital operational resilience.

Building a supportive ecosystem that encourages dialogue between financial entities, regulatory bodies, technology providers, and cybersecurity professionals can enhance the collective ability to address digital risks. Public–private partnerships can also contribute to the development of comprehensive and effective strategies for managing digital operational resilience, ensuring that DORA’s implementation is both successful and sustainable.

Kiteworks Helps Financial Services Institutions in the EU Comply With DORA

The Digital Operational Resilience Act (DORA) represents a significant step forward in ensuring the defensibility and reliability of the EU’s financial sector in the face of cyberthreats and other digital disruptions. DOR’s effectiveness, however, depends on its ability to adapt to the ever–changing technological and cybersecurity landscapes. Organizations must take a proactive and integrated approach to compliance, incorporating best practices for digital operational resilience into their core operations, and cooperation from stakeholder groups like regulators and cybersecurity and technology experts. All of these efforts can enable DORA to achieve its goal of fostering a secure, resilient, and trustworthy financial ecosystem in the EU.

With Kiteworks, businesses utilize Kiteworks to share confidential personally identifiable and protected health information (PII/PHI), customer records, financial information, and other sensitive content with colleagues, clients, or external partners. Because they use Kiteworks, they know their sensitive data and priceless intellectual property remains confidential and is shared in compliance with relevant regulations like GDPR, HIPAA, U.S. state privacy laws, and many others.

Kiteworks deployment options include on-premises, hosted, private, hybrid, and FedRAMP virtual private cloud. With Kiteworks: control access to sensitive content; protect it when it’s shared externally using automated end-to-end encryption, multi-factor authentication, and security infrastructure integrations; see, track, and report all file activity, namely who sends what to whom, when, and how. Finally demonstrate compliance with regulations and standards like GDPR, HIPAA, CMMC, Cyber Essentials Plus, NIS2, and many more.

To learn more about Kiteworks, schedule a custom demo today.

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