The Wall Street Journal reported that the effort, which had begun this year under the name Sheltered Harbor, covered banks and credit unions which had about 400 million American accounts.
It said that while people feared theft of money, banks had a greater fear of data being encrypted by a rogue attack.
This would lead to lengthy delays in gaining access to banking systems and the chance that one attack would lead to fears about other institutions and a subsequent run on all of them.
Existing measures to restore faith in the financial system were designed for situations where the solvency or liquidity of one or more institutions was under question, and did not address a situation where access to financial data had been lost.
The WSJ said a 2015 exercise known as the Hamilton Series had shown that when data was disrupted at a smaller bank, it could have an adverse impact on the entire system.
The Sheltered Harbor initiative was the brainchild of Phil Venables, chief operational risk officer at Goldman Sachs, and James Rosenthal, Morgan Stanley’s former chief operating officer. Venables and Rosenthal jointly chair Sheltered Harbor.
In order to be part of the project, banks pay anything from US$250 to US$25,000 annually, depending on their size. They have to follow guidelines on formatting data, creating a back-up vault and submitting to audits.
Sheltered Harbor aims to provide backed-up data for use to cover those affected by an attack on an institution within 48 hours.