Cyber Security threats to the financial sector have grown and diversified over the years. A key critical infrastructure of our economy, financial services and banking sector are among the most lucrative targets for hackers looking to gain financially from their exploits. Financial institutions today are looking at cutting edge methods and tools to stay ahead of their adversaries, as the latter too aims at benefiting from technological advances to improve their game at the same time.
And, in case you didn’t already know…
The scale of the threat to the financial sector is enormous. According to a 2016 data breach investigations report from Verizon, financial services are the most breached industry, making up a huge 35% of all breaches.
Here is our pick of 5 Cyber Threats to the Financial Sector…
There are various different types of cyber threats being faced by the financial sector today, from web applications attacks to the risk of insiders misusing and abusing their access privileges, and, in this article, we’ll be taking a look at five of the most common or relevant to the financial sector.
1-Web Application Attacks
Web Application attacks are among the most common variety of cyber-attack within the financial sector. This is largely down to the expansion of online and digital services, which in turn has the knock-on effect of increasing attack surfaces.
Online banking, mobile apps and services, online trading, and other digital channels have all assisted in the increase in risk posed by potential cyber threats. In order to exploit web applications, hackers often look for known vulnerabilities within the application or could even use stolen login credentials to access and take over an account.
However, there are ways in which financial service providers can combat these threats. Web Application Firewalls (WAFs) are an increasingly common addition to cyber security set-ups and when combined with increased threat awareness and intelligence, can help to stop these kinds of attacks before they occur.
2-New and Emerging Technologies
New technologies and mediums by which to access financial services are also some of the biggest threats to the financial sector. As more and more technologies become available and are adopted they will also need to be secured so as to protect them from other types of cyber threats.
Another aspect of emerging technologies that poses a threat to the financial sector is their use in cyber-attacks. Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and automation are but a few cutting-edge technologies that could be utilised by malicious hackers in their attacks on the financial industry.
However, these very same technologies could be used in the fight against cyber threats.
AI, machine learning, and automation are all currently being integrated into cyber security systems in order to enhance and expand their capabilities and applications. The ability of machine learning algorithms to detect what is and isn’t normal network traffic is what could help set them apart as an essential aspect of future cyber security systems.
With emerging technologies introducing new hardware and software within increasingly shorter time spans, more and more security requirements are needed to keep businesses and institutions within the financial sector secure.
Unfortunately, security can often be an afterthought for many organisations, particularly if they aren’t equipped with their own in-house IT department, as may be the case with smaller, local financial institutions.
In order to guarantee that all vulnerable is as secure as is possible, organisations operating within the financial sector may find it a good idea to conduct regular risk assessments in order to gauge their own vulnerability to cyber-attacks and identify where security resources would best be situated.
4-Third Party Risks
It isn’t just enough for the enterprises and institutions within the financial sector to protect themselves either. Third party vendors can also become gateways for hackers to access even vaster sums of data and information.
In order to offer the best protection, third party vendors need to guarantee security too.
Partnerships and associations can have enormous benefits for both the organisations involved and their customers. However, these connections can bring with them even more ways in which breaches and data compromising can occur.
In order to reduce third party risks, further collaboration between the entities involved could ensure that both systems and data are protected adequately and efficiently throughout their lifetime.
As securing data across all mediums becomes and increasingly complex task, the financial sectors also faces the additional risk of having those working within it targeted for blackmail or otherwise compromised by hackers to make it easier for them to breach certain organisations.
As the financial sector is known for handling some of the most sensitive data and information people can have, hackers will often target organisations they know will be handling data of value to them. This can lead them to recruit staff members to provide access to systems of interest.
Due to this threat, many organisations are now stringently monitoring who has access to what and why. Asking simple questions such as “is this level of access completely necessary for this member of staff?” can often highlight where access could be restricted to improve overall security.
As previously mentioned, regular risk assessments and security auditing can significantly decrease the risk of cyber-attacks for enterprises and institutions operating within the financial sector and, with attacks on the rise, there’s never been a better time to start.