Protecting Financial Service Sector Against Cyberattacks
The cybersecurity threats to the financial sector have been on the upsurge in recent years. Financial services organizations are 300 times more likely to experience cyberattacks than organizations across other sectors. Given the interconnected nature of the banking sector, an attack on any of the 5 most active US banks affects 38% of the network. As cyber security threats to the financial services industry intensify, banks and financial institutions do not have a choice but to become proactive and invest in building cyber resilience.
Keep reading to find out best practices to follow to effectively protect against cybersecurity threats to the financial sector and build cyber resilience.
Cybersecurity Threats to the Financial Sector: A Snapshot
Financial services organizations have always been a prime target for cybercriminals, but they are more vulnerable today. Here’s why.
Digital transformation efforts in the financial services industry have been accelerated dramatically owing to the changing customer behavior and preferences, the pandemic-led disruptions, and the rise of remote working. Organizations moved to cloud-based infrastructures, the number of endpoints multiplied, and the attack surface widened. So, attackers had more entry points to exploit and gain access to assets.
Banks and financial institutions have always been lucrative targets with their vast financial assets and rich data resources. However, the digital transformation efforts have led organizations to generate a lot more data today, data that cybercriminals can use by themselves, sell in the black market, or threaten to destroy unless a ransom is paid.
Despite the digital transformation initiatives, the financial services industry still has a lot of legacy technology and fragmented IT systems that cannot be replaced, at least in the short run, owing to their key functionalities or data.
Top 5 Cybersecurity Threats to the Financial Sector
- DDoS attacks
- Insecure third-party services
7 Effective Ways to Protect Financial Services Organizations Against Cyberattacks
1. Establish and Implement a Formal Security Framework… But Don’t Stop There
Financial services organizations must align their business imperatives with relevant regulatory and compliance standards. Several formal security frameworks are available for organizations in the sector to manage their cyber risks more effectively while meeting compliance obligations. For instance, NIST Cybersecurity Framework, FFIEC Information Technology Examination Handbook, etc. Remember that these frameworks help you build a solid foundation for security but do not ensure 100% security against cybersecurity threats to the financial sector.
2. A Proactive, Comprehensive Cyber Risk Management Strategy is Critical
Financial services organizations need to adopt a proactive and comprehensive outlook to risk management. The cyber risk management strategy must take a holistic view of cyber risks across people, processes, technology, and third parties, instead of narrowly focusing on technology or processes alone.
3. Continuously Perform Intelligent Threat Monitoring
Attackers can enter financial networks and stay there undetected for months and even years, causing irrevocable damage. To pre-empt cyber threats to the financial sector, you need to have the first-mover advantage. And for that, real-time, intelligent threat monitoring is essential. All requests, network activities, user behavior, traffic patterns, and so on need to be closely and continuously monitored.
Modern technologies, including self-learning AI, automation, analytics, cloud computing, and so on, must be leveraged to infuse agility and accuracy into security, thus, weeding out the guesswork from security and helping you stay ahead of attackers.
4. Implement Effective Vulnerability Management Processes
Unsecured vulnerabilities poke holes in your security posture, providing attackers with easy entry points into your systems and infrastructure. In the face of intensifying cybersecurity threats to the financial sector, you need robust and effective vulnerability management (VM) processes.
They help you proactively identify security weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and misconfigurations and prioritize and secure them before attackers find them. They give you 24×7 visibility into your security posture and help you keep hardening it.
5. Don’t Forget Third-Party Risks
Insecure third-party services are among the top 5 threats to the financial services industry. So, your security strategy and processes must include third-party risk management.
- Verify and vet partners/ vendors/ service providers thoroughly before onboarding services
- Keep monitoring your network for threats permeating from their networks and devices
- Tighten access controls
- Keep auditing their security posture and regulatory compliance periodically
6. Create a Strong Cybersecurity Culture Within the Organization… And Start from the Top!
This will help ensure that everyone understands security and doesn’t consider security as an IT prerogative. Executive buy-in is most critical. When top management views security as a priority, they will be more willing to invest the right resources. Secondly, it helps ensure that there is buy-in across stakeholders. So, there is greater alignment toward the security culture.
7. Devise Robust Incident Response Plans
Despite all efforts, the security defenses of your financial service organization will be tested at some point. In such a case, having robust incident response plans will help you minimize the attack’s impact and bounce back swiftly.
The cybersecurity threats to the financial sector are damaging but avoidable with a proactive risk-based approach and robust security measures. Have you started investing in the security of your financial service organization?