Cybersecurity in the financial services sector

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By Alfredo Rubina, Vice President of Financial Services at SoftServera digital consultancy and advisory firm that provides innovative technology solutions to some of today’s biggest brands.

A growing number of financial institutions are migrating to the cloud. According to a Google Cloud study, 83% of finance executives said their organizations are already using cloud technologies in some way. Despite this tremendous success, there is a factor that slows down the growth process of cloud solutions. This is a security concern because cybersecurity is a top priority in the financial services industry these days.

There are some challenges regarding the subject. First, there are no standards for cloud security postures, which can lead banks to doubt that their data is properly protected when stored or processed in the cloud. Second, there are no regulatory requirements to mitigate any compliance challenges that banks may face when migrating to the cloud.

That’s why cloud providers are increasing security in many important ways. One of them is a cloud firewall, a security solution that filters potentially dangerous network traffic. This cloud-based firewall delivery method is also known as Firewall as a Service (FWaaS). Traditional firewalls create a virtual barrier around an organization’s internal network, while cloud-based firewalls form a virtual barrier surrounding cloud platforms, infrastructure, and applications. To protect data from DDoS attacks, providers use DDoS protection services that deliver cloud-based defense, with the most accurate detection and fastest time to protection against today’s most dynamic and ever-evolving DDoS threats. These cloud-based solutions are typically delivered as a software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering and scale to provide comprehensive protection no matter the size of the organization.

Key Management Systems (KMS) are another new security development. It is the management of cryptographic keys in a cryptosystem. Cryptographic algorithms are used to generate keys, which are then encrypted and decrypted to provide the necessary information securely, to ensure the security of a system. Cloud key management refers to a service hosted in the cloud and allows users to manage symmetric and asymmetric cryptographic keys as they would on-premises. Many innovations are underway from cybersecurity vendors that relate directly to cloud usage – for example, Robot Mitigation. These solutions apply automated and data-driven approaches to manage bots. The solution also applies behavioral analysis to detect anomalies in site-specific traffic, scoring each request based on how different it is from the baseline.

Malicious or criminal attacks are the most common source of problems in the financial sector. Financial gain was the most common purpose of data breaches across all industries, according to Verizon’s 2019 Data Breach Investigation Report, with 71% of breaches motivated by financial reasons. The spread of data theft or the infiltration of networks at an unprecedented scale and speed could destabilize the world of financial services. Fortunately, there are measures and procedures that organizations can follow to defend their business against cyberattacks.

A suitable antimalware solution

In the first quarter of 2021, phishing attacks were most prevalent in the financial sector. Phishing attacks in the banking sector increased by 22% in the first six months of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020. For the same period, the number of attacks against financial applications increased by 38%. Another threat is ransomware, which poses a serious cyber threat to financial institutions. Ransomware criminals are drawn to the financial services industry because of the valuable information they have about their customers. Well-chosen software helps secure payments and shared accounts between third parties and offers greater flexibility in managing money within the company. Anti-ransomware solutions include the use of advanced mechanisms such as popular ransomware activity monitoring to identify and stop these types of malware. Although security solutions are an important aspect of a multi-layered defense, they are not a panacea against cyber threats. It is recommended to have a well-planned complement of cybersecurity instruments to complete the “human side” of cybersecurity.

Team awareness

By arming employees with knowledge about phishing scams and ransomware red flags, financial institutions can hedge their bets and reduce risk, because the most common source of security breaches is human error. When it comes to effective cybersecurity practices for financial institutions, security awareness courses are critical to business security.

Know vulnerabilities and monitor threats

One of the most effective strategies for limiting enterprise attack surfaces is to address vulnerabilities. However, it must be done on a regular basis and based on a vulnerability management workflow. Even if institutions simply perform vulnerability checks on a regular basis, it is not difficult for opportunistic attackers to gain access. Most data breaches are stealthy. To remain persistent, hackers will attempt to cover their tracks once they gain access to the corporate network. They gain phishing access for login credentials and then use a variety of complex strategies to hide their activity.

Vulnerability management can be optimized by:

  • Intelligent Prioritization: Correct what matters most, based on the company’s unique risk tolerance
  • Fast and efficient remediation management: select the best fix, whether it’s a patch, configuration or script, get detailed step-by-step instructions and send them to the right person
  • AI-powered automation: Turn a complex repair process into a simple step-by-step workflow, then automate all the tedious steps
  • Remediation Analytics: Get real-time visibility into the effectiveness and results of remediation campaigns

And last, but certainly not least, is the establishment of a formal security framework

The framework is a set of guidelines based on a basic cyber risk reduction model. These guidelines provide a mechanism for the financial industry to set fundamental strategy, assess risk, develop comprehensive security systems and ultimately respond to hacker activity.

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