Cybersecurity in Banking: Three Top Threat Trends to Know

By Kasey Hewitt

Posted on Jul 27, 2020

The banking sector’s ongoing digital transformation has caused the industry’s potential attack surface to grow, exposing organizations to increased levels of cyberthreat activity. As more businesses adopt digital banking solutions, having effective cybersecurity programs has become more important than ever before.

A key component to the success of these programs is having an understanding of which threat trends pose the greatest risk to your bank or financial institution.

Understanding the latest threat trends will help you build more informed security strategies that accurately assess your organization’s cyberhealth. By adopting programs that effectively monitor your security posture, you will enable your banking institution to embrace digital transformation without compromising security or compliance.

The banking industry’s cyber threat landscape

Due to the high value of financial data, cybercriminals are increasingly targeting customer banking credentials when carrying out attacks. As more banks implement mobile banking applications, new vulnerabilities for cybercriminals to target are introduced to the network. Banking apps can be exploited from both the client-side or the server-side, making them difficult to secure. This means that banks must be able to ensure that data is secure when it is being accessed from a customer device as well as when it is stored on bank servers.

Cybercriminals will also attempt to target your bank’s third-party vendors (software vendors, banking equipment vendors, customer service vendors). Vendors have access to critical banking data but often lack stringent security policies, making them a prime target for threat actors. As banks increase their reliance on third-parties, it is important to continuously monitor cybersecurity. Proper vendor due diligence can save financial organizations from reputational damage and financial loss.

Three top threat trends for banks to know

Prevalent cyber threats within the banking sector are constantly evolving and becoming more complex. In order to stay ahead of threat actors, it is crucial to understand the different attack vectors they use to carry out attacks.

Below are three of the most common banking threat trends:

1. Malware

Malware has long been a threat to the banking sector. By infecting vulnerable end-user devices with malware, cybercriminals are able to gain access to entire banking networks and steal critical user data. With malware becoming easier than ever to obtain, this threat has grown in recent years as in 2019, it was responsible for 75% of all data breaches in the banking sector.

The growth of the malware-as-a-service model, as well as fileless malware attacks, highlights the need for comprehensive security policies in the banking industry. Malware attacks are becoming easier and cheaper to carry out so it is essential that banks work with their security teams to ensure that both customer and employee devices cannot be compromised.

2. Social engineering

Unlike traditional hacking methods, social engineering attacks exploit human behavior to gain access to company servers. Social Engineers manipulate employees into sharing login credentials or other sensitive information which is then used to compromise the network. In the banking sector, the most common social engineering attack is phishing.

Phishing attacks are communications, such as emails, calls, or texts, that impersonate company officials in order to trick employees into sharing information. Phishing attacks can also use misleading links in order to guide employees to websites that are infected with malware. Customers are also frequently targeted in phishing attacks, so it is essential you educate them about cybersecurity best practices as well. This can be done through a security awareness newsletter or email.

3. Data manipulation

A common misconception about cyber attacks is that they are only concerned with data theft. That is not always the case, however, as data manipulation attacks have become an increasingly popular means of attack for cybercriminals. Data manipulation attacks occur when a threat actor gains access to a target system and makes undetected changes to data for their own personal gain. An example of this is if an employee modifies customer transactional data. This will likely go unnoticed as the transactions will appear legitimate, leading to mistakes in how future data is recorded. The longer the manipulation goes undetected, the more damage it will cause.

Because manipulated data does not look any different than normal data, these attacks are extremely difficult to detect and prevent. In the banking sector, this is especially dangerous as manipulated data can result in non-compliance with data standards and lead to substantial fines.

How to ensure your banking institution is cyber secure

To ensure that you are protected against emerging threat trends, it is important that you work with your IT teams to establish security protocols.

Below are four ways you can bolster cybersecurity at your organization:

1. Multi-factor authentication

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is an authentication method in which access is only granted once a user presents two or more login credentials. Login credentials can include passwords, pins, or fingerprints. When setting up MFA make sure that login credentials do not come from the same source (i.e. two passwords) as this will weaken security. MFA is a necessity for financial organizations as it adds an additional layer of security when attempting to access valuable information.

2. Cyber risk assessment

Performing a cyber risk assessment helps organizations identify and manage vulnerabilities within their network environment. By evaluating which risks pose the greatest threat to your business, you can prioritize remediation efforts and streamline threat mitigation. This allows you proactively protect against data breaches while cutting costs and labor hours.

3. Cyber insurance

Cyber insurance helps ensure that businesses are financially protected in the event of a data breach, making it an important component of a cybersecurity strategy. Along with covering legal expenses, cyber insurance carriers also notify customers of breaches so that organizations are in compliance with data breach regulations. Additionally, cyber insurance will also help pay to fix damaged systems and restore compromised data.

4. Employee training

For your security programs to be effective, it is essential that you train your employees on cyber hygiene best practices. Outside of reducing cyber risk within your organization, employee training can also help to minimize the impact of a data breach. When employees are trained to use cybersecurity systems properly, they can actively identify exploitable vulnerabilities in your systems and make sure they are addressed.

How SecurityScorecard can help

For banks to actively protect against threats, they need visibility into their cybersecurity ecosystems. With SecurityScorecard’s financial services solutions organizations gain an outside-in view of their IT infrastructure so that they can easily identify cyber risks and prioritize threat remediation. We also provide third-party risk management solutions so that you can effectively monitor your vendor’s security posture. With A-F scoring, you can easily assess vendor risk while also ensuring that they are in compliance with banking security regulations.

The banking sector will always be a target for cybercriminals looking to compromise systems for financial gain. With SecurityScorecard, you can maximize your security capabilities and make sure that critical assets are protected.

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