How Financial Services Firms Can Improve Cybersecurity Hygiene

By Phoebe Fasulo

Posted on Jul 1, 2020

Financial services firms have long been a target for cybercriminals due to the value of the information they house on their systems. In recent years, however, there has been an increase in attacks as digital innovation within the industry flourished. While the implementation of digital solutions helps banks meet consumer demands, it also widens their attack surface, creating new entry points for cybercriminals to exploit. Legacy systems are no longer able to combat today’s sophisticated cyber threats, and many financial organizations now find themselves unable to adequately secure critical data such as credit card numbers, banking statements, and customer social security numbers.

To enable a secure digital transformation, financial organizations must prioritize cyber hygiene. WIth cyber hygiene practices in place, organizations will be better able to detect and remediate vulnerabilities within their internal and third-party ecosystems. This will ensure that financial firms can meet customer demand for innovation without compromising security or compliance.

Cyber threats in financial services

Understanding the cybersecurity threats most prevalent in your industry is extremely important as they provide insight into how to develop cyber hygiene practices within your organization.

Some of the most common cyber threats faced by financial institutions are as follows:

Ransomware

Ransomware is a form of malware that cybercriminals use to encrypt files on a victim’s systems. Once the files have been encrypted, organizations usually have to pay a fee to restore normal access and daily operations. Ransomware is one of the most popular methods of attack for cybercriminals due to the monetary benefits it presents.

DDoS attacks

A Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attack works by overloading traffic flow to a site causing it to be inoperable. Once a DDoS attack has been carried out, threat actors are able to exploit site vulnerabilities with little to no resistance from firms. DDoS attacks are entirely reliant on cybercriminals’ ability to hijack online machines, meaning their prevalence will likely grow as more organizations adopt IoT devices.

Phishing

Phishing is a form of social engineering that leverages malicious emails to trick employees into downloading malware payloads or disclosing sensitive information. These emails appear to come from a trusted source, such as an HR official, so that employees open the message and follow the instructions within. As phishing kits become more widely available, it is important that you educate employees on how to identify fraudulent emails or messages.

Web application attacks

Many financial organizations rely on web applications to conduct day to day operations as they allow employees to easily send information and communicate efficiently. The issue is that many of these applications are vulnerable due to misconfigurations, and if an application is not set up properly, it leaves the organization.

Best practices for improving security hygiene

Outside of enhancing the accuracy and efficiency of threat detection, improving your cybersecurity hygiene can also help you more effectively monitor the performance of your cybersecurity solutions.

Below are three best practices you can follow to improve cybersecurity hygiene as it relates to different aspects of your business:

1. Securing data

Data security is critical for financial organizations. With online banking increasing the amount of data firms handle, they must be able to ensure its security. Data classification is recommended as it helps organizations prioritize their risk mitigation efforts based on the threats they are currently facing. Classifying data by its type, value, and sensitivity not only informs the security controls you implement but can also be used to assess your compliance with regulatory requirements.

2. Monitor third-party risk

If you work with third-party vendors, then you must monitor their cybersecurity as you would your own. Conducting third-party risk assessments helps to identify gaps in vendor security. Comparing vendor risk assessments to your organization’s risk appetite and tolerance statements can further help you classify vendors based on the threat they pose to your business. From there, you can take appropriate action to mitigate any identified risk. You should also create a set of internal responsibilities for vendor monitoring to streamline this process and maintain ongoing vendor compliance.

3. Leverage cybersecurity data

Cybersecurity data is a useful tool that can be used by organizations to better understand past and future attacks. Insights from security data provide context into your network vulnerabilities, helping you stay ahead of threat actors. With the cyber threat landscape evolving at a rapid pace, having access to data is critical as it allows organizations to take a proactive approach to security.

Cybersecurity data can also be used in third-party risk management as it provides organizations with a holistic view of their vendor ecosystem. The visibility gained helps organizations create more comprehensive vendor questionnaires so they can align responses with their organizational goals.

How SecurityScorecard can help

For financial institutions to successfully protect against threats, they must be able to continuously assess and monitor their security posture as well as the cyberhealth of their vendors. With SecurityScorecard’s financial services solutions, organizations can take a proactive approach to cybersecurity. Our comprehensive cybersecurity solutions help you gain an outside-in view of your IT infrastructure so you can easily identify cyber risks and prioritize threat mitigation. To enhance threat detection, we offer cybersecurity data capabilities that can be used to remediate vulnerabilities before they are exploited.

SecurityScorecard also provides third-party risk management solutions. By assigning a letter grade to each vendor, you can accurately vet their security posture and assess the risk they pose to your business. This allows you to map vendor vulnerabilities to security standards within the financial industry so you can ensure overall security and compliance.

As the number of cyber incidents in the financial services sector grows, organizations must take steps to improve their cybersecurity hygiene. SecurityScorecard’s financial solutions help you optimize your security programs so that you remain protected moving forward.

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