Ábel Maróti (Junior Marketing Manager, Avatao)
The umbrella of financial services covers a bunch of different types of companies and organizations. Such economic services ensure the appropriate management of money, they include banks, insurance companies, accounting firms, stock brokerages, credit agencies, investment funds, and so much more. These companies have different ways of working and numerous methods and options of services they offer. What do they have in common? They operate with a large amount of cash flow and credit transactions, thus they pose an excellent target for cyber attackers.
Financial service institutions
Money management moves towards complete automation, and the evolution of cybercrime follows along. The money heist has changed, we all know that. Cyberspace takes more and more of that cake, but the reason behind attacks remains the same: money, in any form. Surely, different hacktivists might target the financial sector motivated by ideological or political leverage, but profit is in the first place of priorities. Nevertheless, information extracted from financial databases bears immense value. Data such as credit card numbers, bank accounts, or social security numbers are all stored in such directories, no wonder why the sector is in the crosshairs of attackers. We could say that financial service institutions (FSIs) hold the most sensitive data. Originally, cybercriminals were more focused on defrauding transactions like credit card or bank account numbers, online bank credentials. As the technology evolved, fraudulent attacks started to target bank networks to gain access to different systems. This means access to individual information as well as business financial data, posing a great threat.
Financial cybersecurity threats
As mentioned above, financial services are leading the list of the most-attacked targets in the cyberspace. With 35% of all data breaches, this industry takes the lead as the most-breached sector. The reason is pretty much straightforward.
Financial services are where the money is, and attacking them provides multiple ways of profiting, through extortion or theft, for instance. But not only that. The network of banks, credit card and social security numbers, insurance information, and all kind of sensitive data are stored in databases belonging to or somehow connected to financial organizations. Experts do try creating proactive solutions and security protocols, but the ever-developing threat factor is still able to overcome these measures with new strategies and methods.
As it has affected the financial sector among many others, we cannot keep COVID-19 out of the conversation. According to the US FBI, a 300% increase in breaches has occurred since the outbreak of the new coronavirus. Based on the Official Cybercrime Report (Cybersecurity Ventures), in 2021, cyberattacks will cost $6 trillion, and that’s double the cost of that in the previous year. While breaking news usually only includes outstanding attacks on major companies, small-and-medium enterprises are also at risk. About 82000 malware threats are let out every day, and roughly half of those threats target small businesses. That’s a huge increase in itself, not to mention that attacks on the financial sector have also increased by 238%, according to VMware Carbon Black threat data. Attacks on these institutions cost $18.5 million annually and use four main methods to get through the defense: OGNL Java Injection, SQL Injections, Local File Inclusion, and Cross-Site Scripting. The above-mentioned numbers are quite self-explanatory, but what could possibly be the reason for not being able to reduce the volume of the breaches?
A popular target
Several companies focus on detecting the issues, rather than preventing them. Such businesses are getting better at realizing the attacks soon after they happened, but the damage is already done at this point, nevertheless. According to a study of Synopsys, a large percentage of the respondents – all in the financial service industry – is concerned about cyberattacks, and ineffective against them at the same time. Most of the respondents fail to assess their product for vulnerabilities pre-release, resulting in an increased risk of breach.
As mentioned earlier, the financial sector is being attacked from many directions, with a great number of methods. For example, MasterCard faces an average 460000 intrusion attempts daily. Should only one of the many attacks succeed, and devastation may follow. The popularity of the financial industry among hackers causes a permanent cyber threat with ever-evolving technologies used by the attackers. Best practices and a consistent approach to security awareness are a must to avoid becoming another breach statistics. The key, therefore, would be focusing on foreseeing and preventing such external threats.
Increasing financial cybersecurity awareness
As previously stated, detection happens more often than prevention. It is important to identify breaches and react in a fast manner, but essentially, forestalling them is more beneficial in every way. As always, it is easier said than done, but there are some best practices to make the financial sector more secure. Like other sectors, FSIs need a strong security culture that involves regulating risk management, continuous training, and securing the entire development from the ground up. It is principal to say that there is no one single approach that works for every business. Multiple solutions may be needed to make sure you do everything to secure your organization. Customer data is most sensitive, and using multiple safeguards helps to keep it safe. Creating a strong culture of financial cybersecurity can be a first step towards the foundation of your defense. Effective data encryption, password policy, and two-factor authentication are some of the best practices to utilize as part of security awareness.
Another pillar of security is education. Arming your employees with strong security knowledge is the best way to prevent breaches. Secure coding skills really come in handy when developing software. The best way to keep your code’s integrity is to pay attention to security measures from the very beginning. A poorly designed system may be more exposed to external threats than one with appropriate protection. Code security starts in the user interface, and ends at the data stores. Every station of the datapath shall be secured, and by doing so, the chance of security breaches may be reduced. Also, manual review of code can also mitigate the risk. More heads are better than one, so to say. It might require more effort, but a second pair of eyes looking for vulnerabilities and potential errors won’t harm.
The financial sector is under attack, all the time. It has never been so important to protect data, as sensitive customer data is stacked up in the stores of FSIs. Keeping it safe is essential for the protection of your customers, and to ensure the survival of your business. Cybercrime never sleeps, and neither should the safeguards. The financial sector is where the money is, hence the threat is constant and real. Detection is oftentimes not enough. Focusing on prevention instead can give you the upper hand. Building a strong security culture and providing consistent education to your developers are the key against attackers. Placing financial cybersecurity in the center of all can help you ensure the safety of your organization, and it starts on day one.
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