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Cybersecurity in Finance: How to Address Cyber Threats

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Financial institutions constantly face cyber threats from outside and inside their organizations. There were 982 reported financial data breaches from January 2018 to June 2022, affecting more than 153 million records. Knowing about these threats is essential for creating strong cybersecurity defenses. In this blog post, we will explore the biggest cyber threats financial institutions deal with and share ways to tackle them effectively.

What is a Cyber Threat in Finance?

A cyber threat in finance refers to a malicious activity or attack that specifically targets financial institutions, their data, or their customers. The primary objective of a cyber threat in finance is to compromise the sensitive data and systems of financial institutions, potentially leading to financial losses, operational disruptions, and reputational damage. 

cybersecurity in finance

Importance of Cybersecurity in Finance

Cybersecurity has become a critical issue for financial institutions, and its importance cannot be overstated. The financial sector is a prime target for cybercriminals due to the high value of its data and the potential financial gain that can be achieved through successful attacks.

In recent years, numerous high-profile cyber attacks have targeted financial institutions, resulting in significant financial losses and reputational damage. For instance, in 2020, the banking giant Capital One experienced a data breach that exposed the personal information of more than 100 million customers and applicants. 

The breach was caused by a misconfigured firewall, allowing a hacker to access sensitive data, including names, addresses, credit scores, and social security numbers. The incident resulted in an $80 million fine for the company and significant damage to its reputation.

Moreover, the financial industry is subject to strict regulatory requirements, such as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards. Compliance with these regulations requires financial institutions to maintain comprehensive cybersecurity programs to safeguard their customers' data and prevent cyber attacks.

Biggest Cyber Threats in Finance

The financial services industry is a prime target for cybercriminals due to its vast amounts of sensitive data and valuable assets. Some of the most significant cyber threats facing financial services include phishing attacks, ransomware attacks, and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. These threats require financial institutions to adopt effective cybersecurity measures to mitigate their risk.

Now, let's delve into each of these cyber threats and how to address them.

Phishing Attacks in Finance

Phishing attacks are a type of social engineering attack where cybercriminals use fraudulent emails, text messages, or websites to trick individuals into divulging sensitive information, such as usernames and passwords. A phishing attack aims to deceive the victim into believing that the communication is from a legitimate source and to provide their information to the attacker. 

Cybercriminals often use phishing emails or messages to trick employees into revealing sensitive information or credentials. The FBI's 2020 Internet Crime Report revealed that phishing was the most common type of cybercrime, with financial institutions being a prime target.

Some measures that financial institutions can take to address phishing attacks:

  • Employee training and awareness programs
  • Multi-factor authentication
  • Use of email filters and anti-phishing software
  • Implementation of a robust incident response plan
  • Regular security assessments and vulnerability testing
  • Implementation of website monitoring tools
  • Use of domain-based message authentication, reporting, and conformance (DMARC) protocol
  • Adoption of security best practices such as strong passwords and regular updates
  • Use of encryption to protect sensitive data
  • Regular backup of critical data to ensure continuity in case of a breach.

Resmo's SaaS Discovery feature can play a vital role in helping financial institutions combat phishing attacks by offering comprehensive visibility into SaaS tool usage, including Shadow IT. This feature enables organizations to identify and address potential security issues related to SaaS tools, which attackers could exploit if compromised credentials are obtained through phishing. Here's how Resmo's SaaS Discovery can help:

Comprehensive Visibility: Resmo's SaaS Discovery can detect which SaaS tools employees are using, including unauthorized tools in Shadow IT. By identifying the tools in use, financial institutions can ensure proper security measures are in place, reducing the potential impact of successful phishing attacks.

SaaS Discovery

Automated Detection and Continuous Monitoring: Resmo's SaaS Discovery feature uses native integrations with 80+ tools and browser extensions for Safari, Chrome, and Firefox to automatically detect SaaS usage and logins. This provides continuous visibility into employee SaaS tool usage and helps identify potential security issues.

Strengthening Access Security: Resmo can detect how employees are accessing SaaS tools, including whether they are using multi-factor authentication or Single Sign-On (SSO). Financial institutions can automatically detect if these security best practices are not applied.

MFA detection

Automated Permission Checks: SaaS Discovery allows financial institutions to continuously evaluate vulnerabilities like overly permissive access rights to SaaS tools. By addressing these issues, organizations can reduce the risk of unauthorized access.

automated security checks

Employee Risk Assessment: Resmo's SaaS Discovery feature provides a quick overview of each employee's security risk level, the number of used apps, last usage, and more. This information can help financial institutions identify and address potential security issues related to SaaS tool usage.

Ransomware Attacks in Finance

Ransomware attacks are a type of cyber attack that involves encrypting an organization's data and demanding payment in exchange for the decryption key to release it. These attacks have become increasingly common and sophisticated, and financial institutions are often targeted due to the high value of their data and the perceived ability to pay large ransoms.

The measures mentioned in the Phishing Attacks section are also essential for preventing Ransomware Attacks. In addition to these measures, it's crucial to encrypt the data before attackers encrypt it to avoid falling victim to ransomware attacks. However, encrypting data is not enough to ensure ongoing protection. It is equally important to continuously monitor the encryption status of data to ensure that it remains secure and encrypted at all times.

Continuous Encryption Status Monitoring: Why It's Important for Financial Institutions

By continuously monitoring data encryption status, financial institutions can detect any changes or potential security breaches that could compromise their sensitive information. Without continuous monitoring, there may be gaps in the security of the data that cybercriminals can exploit, leading to data breaches, regulatory penalties, and loss of customer trust.

In addition, manual checks for encryption status can be time-consuming and prone to errors. Using a security tool like Resmo can automate encryption status monitoring, saving time and ensuring that all necessary security checks are performed.

How to accomplish continuous encryption status monitoring in Resmo

1. Integrate your cloud services (AWS, GCP, Azure, etc.) or SaaS tools within a few minutes.

cloud integrations

2. Resmo has over 400 pre-built rules for automated security checks. If you can't find the rule you need, you can easily create a custom rule for monitoring the encryption status of the data you want in the Rules section.

automated encryption security

3. Create a notification channel, such as Slack, in Resmo's Settings section. This enables financial institutions to receive real-time notifications in case of any changes or issues are detected.

notification channels

4. Create a notification rule in Resmo's Settings section. After setting up the notification channel, Resmo will send you real-time notifications via your preferred method: Slack, email, webhook, or another option. You can customize your notification settings to receive alerts that match your preferences and needs.

encryption monitoring

Here is an example of a notification of how you will receive it from Slack:

Slack notification from Resmo

By following these four simple steps in Resmo, you can automate the monitoring of encryption status for any data, application, or resource and receive real-time notifications if any changes occur. Continuous encryption status monitoring helps ensure the ongoing security of sensitive data, maintains compliance with industry regulations, and protects the reputation of financial institutions.

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attacks in Finance

DDoS attacks aim to overwhelm a financial institution's online services, causing downtime and potential loss of revenue. A 2020 study by Neustar found that financial services experienced a 200% increase in DDoS attacks compared to the previous year.

To help detect and prevent DDoS attacks, AWS offers features such as AWS Shield Standard, AWS WAF, and AWS CloudFront. GCP provides Cloud Armor, VPC Flow Logs, and Google Cloud Load Balancing. Azure offers Azure DDoS Protection Standard, Azure Firewall, and Azure Application Gateway.

However, it's important to note that these DDoS prevention features mostly require manual configuration to ensure proper functionality. Users must enable and configure these features according to best practices to ensure they effectively detect and mitigate DDoS attacks.

One way for financial institutions to ensure these best practices are being applied is by creating notifications for automated security checks. By integrating Resmo with their cloud services, financial institutions can continuously monitor if their DDoS prevention systems are enabled.

DDoS protection check

With Resmo, financial institutions can add pre-built automated checks such as "API Gateway should be associated with an AWS WAF web ACL" included in AWS Foundational Security Best Practices or create custom automated checks tailored to their specific needs. By doing so, they can ensure their DDoS prevention systems are functioning as intended and receive real-time notifications in case of any changes happens to these configurations.

In conclusion, insider and outsider cyber threats pose significant risks to financial institutions and their sensitive data and operations. To effectively combat these threats, financial institutions must adopt robust security measures that include access controls, monitoring, training programs, and advanced threat detection solutions.

Resmo offers a variety of automated security checks and resource monitoring that help financial institutions detect and address potential security vulnerabilities, ensuring that they stay compliant and protected against insider and outsider threats. 

By leveraging Resmo's powerful features, financial institutions can safeguard their sensitive data and systems, prevent data breaches, minimize financial losses, and maintain the trust of their clients and stakeholders.

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