Understanding and Reacting to the Threats in the Financial Sector

  • David Atkinson, CEO at SenseOn

  • 23.05.2024 12:45 pm
  • #FinancialThreats #RiskManagement

Few sectors present a more attractive target to cybercriminals than the data-rich and highly-digitised financial services industry. In fact, recent data indicates a disturbing upward trend in ransomware attacks on financial services institutions, with the incidence rate climbing from 55% in 2022 to 64% in 2023. Take banks as an example. According to International Monetary Fund (IMF) data, banks are the most targeted of all financial organisations in the last 20 years by cyber criminals, amassing losses of over $3 billion dollars. Banks not only do they carry the responsibility for the personal information of billions of people, but the advances in internet banking, mobile apps and instant payments all require new technology which invariably increases their attack vector and introduces new vulnerabilities.

The size of an institution offers no shield against the sophistication of modern cyber threats. After all, bad actors were able to breach the U.S. financial services division of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) in November 2023. Financial services providers of all types are in the crosshairs of sophisticated hackers, and it’s easy to understand why. A successful cyberattack can bring about monumental financial losses, incur severe regulatory penalties and inflict lasting reputational damage. It is crucial that financial services companies are set up to face this challenge.

Minimising blind spots

To effectively fortify defences against cyber threats, financial institutions must first achieve a greater understanding of their potential vulnerabilities. These can range from outdated software and unpatched systems to human error and insufficient access controls. With the responsibility to protect sensitive data, financial services firms cannot afford any security blind spots within their digital estates. Especially with more employees working remotely and operations spreading across multiple geographies. Each weak point can provide cybercriminals with an entryway into the network.

In addressing the challenge of security blind spots, a comprehensive approach to monitoring is essential. Traditional security tools often fall short by creating bottlenecks and inefficiencies, thus leaving gaps that can be exploited by cybercriminals. Instead, adopting a more granular monitoring strategy ensures that all areas of a network are under constant surveillance.

This method not only prevents unauthorised access but also mitigates the risk of data breaches by providing specific and actionable information. By integrating advanced monitoring technologies that offer detailed insights into every segment of their digital environment, financial institutions can secure their assets more effectively and ensure comprehensive coverage without the operational drag typical of older systems. This level of vigilance is crucial for maintaining the integrity of highly sensitive data and protecting against the evolving landscape of cyber threats.

Streamlining data correlation

The nature of the financial services industry means that the volume of sensitive data being collected every day by an organisation is often incomprehensible. Within this, a significant amount of security data is stored. Traditional security systems often struggle to integrate and analyse data from disparate sources, which can significantly hamper threat detection and response efforts. An effective approach involves streamlining the correlation of all security data into a single, cohesive format.

This integration enables analysts to quickly and accurately identify the who, what, where, when, and how of any security event, thereby eliminating the cumbersome process of linking information across various systems. Such a streamlined approach not only accelerates response times but also boosts the effectiveness of security measures. By simplifying data analysis, institutions can enhance their ability to pre-empt and respond to threats, making their cybersecurity operations more agile and robust.

Reducing alert noise

As with many security teams, resources for cybersecurity within financial services companies are often thinly stretched. As such, managing the deluge of alerts generated by traditional security tools is a significant challenge. A more strategic approach involves utilising an AI-based reasoning framework that sharpens the focus on delivering only true positive alerts. This precision in alert management drastically reduces the volume of false alarms, thereby alleviating the operational burden on security teams.

Focusing solely on genuine threats allows institutions to optimise their security resources and enhance their threat response capabilities. In addition, by streamlining alert management, financial institutions can achieve a more efficient security operation, significantly lowering the costs associated with managing cybersecurity. This strategic shift ensures that cybersecurity efforts are more targeted and effective, and helps maintain the integrity of financial operations by preventing unnecessary distractions and resource drain.

In a sector where the stakes are high, and the threats are increasingly sophisticated, financial services firms must leverage AI to protect their assets. Achieving robust cybersecurity is an ongoing process and the ultimate goal, demanding constant vigilance and adaptation. With the right proactive measures in place, financial services can defend themselves against the ever-present threat of cybercrime.

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