Financial organizations have always been a preferred target among digital attackers, and the trend continued in 2019 as malicious actors made headlines in numerous security incidents involving financial organizations. In many of those campaigns, those nefarious individuals used phishing campaigns to the lay the groundwork for ransomware infections, data theft and other secondary attacks.
Ongoing Digital Security Challenges among Financial Organizations
Fortunately, financial organizations aren’t blind to the digital security threats confronting their industry. On the contrary, in an October 2019 survey, 70% of community banks in 37 states told the Conference of State Bank Supervisors that cybersecurity was their top concern.
This anxiety was largely the product of firsthand experience. Indeed, in a Clearswift study, exactly 70% of business decision-makers employed by financial services (finserv) organizations in the United Kingdom said that their employer had recently suffered a security incident. Most of those incidents tracked back to instances where employees had not followed their employer’s security protocols and/or data protection policies, including those pertaining to email.
Even so, it would appear that financial organizations have had a difficult time translating these experiences and awareness into meaningful change. The Ponemon Institute confirmed as much in its “The State of Software Security in the Financial Services Industry” report, especially with regards to financial organizations’ efforts to manage risk in their supply chains. As an example, while 74% of finserv security professionals said that they were concerned about the security of the third-party solutions used by their employers, less than half said that their organizations required vendors and suppliers to comply with their cybersecurity requirements or verify their own security procedures. This would explain why finserv organizations were more “effective in detecting (56%) and containing (53%) cyberattacks than in preventing attacks (31%).”
Why Finserv Organizations Need to Take Digital Security Seriously
In the worst-case scenario, a digital attacker could abuse a financial organization’s lax digital security measures to gain unauthorized access to its customers’ data. An incident such as this could place the victim organization in violation of standards such as NYDFS Cybersecurity Regulation or broader industry rules such as those imposed by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) or the International Organization of Securities Commission (IOSCO). In that event, the victim organization would likely need to pay tens of thousands of dollars in noncompliance fees, cover the actual recovery costs stemming from the incident and direct resources to the effort of rebuilding its reputation among its current and potential customers.
Digital attackers aren’t making it easy for finserv organizations, either. Case in point, Germany-based IT provider Citycomp revealed in May 2019 that digital attackers stole and published the data of several of its customers after infiltrating its computer systems. This type of attack has become increasingly common in recent months with the ongoing trend of ransomware actors who now publish the data of any victim who refuses to pay their ransom amount.
How Financial Organizations Can Bolster their Digital Security
Digital attackers will continue to use email as a way to prey upon financial organizations, conduct ransomware infections and/or steal their victims’ sensitive information. Acknowledging this certainty, financial organizations must protect themselves by investing in a solution that can automatically archive all digital communications. This solution should also be capable of classifying these emails to streamline organizations’ assessment, investigation and management efforts regarding digital threats.
Financial organizations need to also protect the content of those archived emails. They can do this by using policy filters to automatically scan and encrypt emails and attachments that contain sensitive information. That tool should also give IT personnel the ability to quarantine emails and then review them for potential policy violations.