Wall Street aims to thwart a hacking nightmare for your 401(k)

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U.S. financial firms plan to expand a secretive project protecting bank accounts against crippling cyberattacks so that it will also guard trillions of dollars in investment funds.

The industry-led project, called Sheltered Harbor, already is known to back up data for savings and checking accounts. But quietly, it’s wrapping in data on retail brokerage accounts at some of the nation’s largest firms, according to participants.

Ultimately, the goal is to expand it to an even heftier pool of 401(k) accounts and pension funds, whose breach could upend global markets. U.S. retirement assets total $21 trillion, nearly double the $12 trillion in deposits held at Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.-insured banks, according to the Investment Company Institute and the FDIC.

Sheltered Harbor, which began coming to light over the past year, already includes about 50 firms that collectively hold roughly two-thirds of retail bank accounts. The project relies on a “buddy system,” in which companies pair off, promising to step in for their partner with a backup set of account information if hackers succeed in erasing or locking up files.

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