One nightmare scenario, Powell said, would be if hackers managed to shut down a major payment processor — hamstringing the flow of money from one financial institution to another. That could shut down sectors or even broad swaths of the financial system, he said.
Governments and private businesses are increasingly on guard for those types of threats, Powell said. “We spend so much time and energy and money guarding against these things. There are cyber-attacks every day on all major institutions now. And the government is working hard on that. So are all the private sector companies. There’s a lot of effort going in to deal with those threats. That’s a big part of the threat picture in today’s world.”
“Really, the fundamental question for us is if we add this new digital currency to trusted money that we’re counted on to provide to the public, will that help the public?” Powell said. “Will the public be better off? And will there be any negatives too? Will that have perhaps unexpected effects in other parts of the financial system that we need to consider in weighing the costs and benefits of this? We’re the world’s reserve currency. The dollar is so important. We need to get this right. We do not need to be the first ones to do this. We want to get it right. And that’s what we’re going to do.”