Banks and financial institutions are tasked with the responsibility of keeping their customers’ money and data safe. For this reason, they are held to a higher security standard than other firms. A data breach in a financial institution can have devastating consequences, costing the bank or financial institutions a lot more than the breached data from man-in-the-middle attacks or stolen funds from phishing scams.
A cyber-attack on a bank would mean a damaged reputation and loss of customers as well as loss of money via lawsuit compensations. Banks have a lot to lose from a data breach, but there is also a lot they can do to protect themselves and their customers. To protect themselves they need to understand the cyber-attacks and what security measures they can adopt to reduce their risk of attack.
Keep your software up to date
The first step towards reducing the risk of cyber-attacks is to ensure that all the IT operating systems and software are patched with the latest operational and security patches from the relevant vendors. All software vendors such as Microsoft release updates monthly, which need to be applied immediately. These updates include patches that resolve the newest vulnerabilities.
An example of a vulnerability is a ransomware attack known as the “Wannacry” which happened in May 2017 and targeted a vulnerability in the SMB application-layer network protocol in the Windows OS. The attack happened in May, but Microsoft had fixed the vulnerability in March 2017, two months before the attack. The affected users had not yet patched their OS on time, which resulted in the attacks.
Install anti-virus software
Ensure you install the latest anti-virus protection software. Most anti-virus (AV) suites are updated almost every day with the newest solutions to security vulnerabilities and ensuring the systems are safe from virus attacks. If a virus is detected in the system, the AV software intercepts the virus and quarantines it, ensuring it does not spread to more systems.
Back up data
For a financial organization, there are a lot of things that should be done to help mitigate cyber-crime and protect sensitive data. There must be a proven system backup plan. This plan creates backup copies of all the systems, which can be rolled back in case they are needed. Implementing a full system backup in the entire organization may require a lot of money to implement, but it is worth every penny in the long run.
Train your employees on security
Since the employees will be using the internet for most operations, they must regularly attend security-training sessions. The best way to mitigate cybercrimes is to continuously train and educate the employees on how to secure information systems and protect data from man-in-the-middle attacks.
This training should focus on the latest security trends such as spyware, DDoS, man-in-the middle attacks, phishing, rootkits, ransomware, etc. They need to learn how to spot bogus URLs and malicious attachments with fake embedded macrocodes, which are used to mine data compromised systems. This education is not for a select few, but the entire organization from the lowest to the highest level. This education requires quite a significant amount of money and time, but the benefits are a hundredfold.
Many organizations are now opting to outsource the entire IT department to a service provider who will be solely responsible for the management of the company IT infrastructure. A company already audited for its system data compliance and security is the best candidate for securing the firm’s digital platform.
Whether you opt to keep your IT in-house or to outsource, you need to monitor your network traffic to detect suspicious activity. Some intelligent platforms can monitor your infrastructure and let you know of any fishy activity; generate an analysis report of the trends, monitor network traffic, monitor used and system behavior, and report on the system’s performance.
Web-facing applications and servers also need to be secured. An organization might have an IP that is externally facing within a DMZ and exposed to the internet. These servers’ addresses are static IP and are reachable from any location with internet access. This public address range needs to be scanned frequently to check for any vulnerability.
Application and web servers utilize weak and obsolete versions of SSL encryption or systems with long-expired certificates or web applications that have not been updated since deployment. Applications must be tested and frequently monitored to ensure they have extra security. It is crucial to have a support team that is well trained and is available on request to solve issues.
Regular scans help a firm understand where their sensitive information is stored. Information, whether personal or sensitive, should be stored in a proven and tested storage solution. This should be an up-to-date and properly encrypted system. Access to data should also be restricted, but the responsibility of where data is stored lies with the company. If the data storage is cloud-based, it should be secure, and the right people need to have access to the data. For security reasons, the fewer the people with access to data, the safer it is, which minimizes man-in-the middle attacks.
Implement multi-factor authentication
MFA or multi-factor authentication is also known as two-factor authentication or (2FA). 2FA is a strong security practice for financial institutions. It ensures that access is restricted to the user by requiring them to provide a password sent to another entrusted device. This may be a device provided by the financial firm or third parties such as a tablet or a mobile phone, a secure token or a security card.
A password is sent to the device that is used alongside a password, or a biometric signature such as a retina scan or a fingerprint scan. This way, no hacker can hack into a system, as he or she would need to provide the extra authentication.
Financial firms and banks face an uphill task of mitigating cyber-crimes. Hackers love to target them, owing to the significant amount of valuable financial data they hold. To mitigate these attacks, the firms have to go the extra mile for better security. They always have to stay one step ahead of the hackers to keep their customers’ data safe and secure.
About The Author
Angela De Steffano
Staff writer at High Risk Merchant Account LLC
Angela is a merchant account specialist and heads the marketing team at HRMA-LLC.