Central Bank Digital Currencies Introduce New Cybersecurity Challenges


Interest in central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) has grown over the past few years in response to changes in payments and technology, as well as the disruption caused by COVID-19.

A 2021 survey conducted by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) found that 86% of central banks polled were actively researching the potential of CBDCs, 60% were experimenting with the technology and 14% were deploying pilot projects.

Atlantic Council GeoEconomics Center research shows that about 100 countries and currency unions are currently exploring the possibility of launching a CBDC, either retail and issued to the general public, or wholesale and intended to be used primarily for interbank transactions.

CBDCs are essentially digital versions of a country’s physical currency. Instead of printing money, central banks issue widely accessible digital coins which users can utilize to make digital transactions and transfers.

Efforts towards CBDCs have accelerated these past few years, driven by a number of factors. First, COVID-19 has brought about a shift in payment habits towards digital payments and e-commerce, accelerating the decline of cash use and prompting central banks to consider issuing a new form of money that would best suit new consumer preferences.

Second, cryptocurrencies developed by private companies or communities like bitcoin have seen significant developments and value gain. In 2021, the market capitalization of cryptocurrencies grew by nearly three times to US$3 trillion. This rapid rise, combined with the vulnerabilities of crypto markets, has raised financial stability concerns among central banks and regulators, pushing authorities to pursue CBDC ambitions.

For central banks involved in CBDC projects, there are many opportunities relating to digital coins. Most are confident CBDCs could help them reach their public good objectives, including safeguarding trust in money, maintaining price stability and ensuring safe and resilient payment systems and infrastructure. Some also believe CBDCs could significantly help economies go digital, make cross-border payments faster and cheaper, and increase financial inclusion.

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