By Rashid Ali, Enterprise Solutions Manager.
Now more than ever, financial institutions are a favourite target for cybercriminals. This raises great concerns as an Accenture study found that the cost of cyberattacks experienced by the financial services are considerably higher than other industries, reaching up to $18.5 million annually per company.
What’s more worrying is that recent research has revealed that approximately 70% of financial institutions have experienced a cyber-attack since the pandemic began. With an increasing number of threats, financial institutions are facing multiple avenues for extortion, theft, and fraud. This can easily result in severe financial, reputational, and customer loyalty losses. It is now imperative for financial institutions to ensure the implementation of strong access security solutions in order to protect themselves.
Why do hackers prefer targeting banks?
Money is obviously a major factor. Banks are handling large sums of the stuff daily and hackers are always on the lookout for new ways of gaining unauthorised access to customer bank accounts to steal their funds within minutes.
However, banks are rich in something else besides money – private data. Financial institutions are processing and storing large amounts of highly sensitive and valuable PII (personally identifiable information), which is extremely valuable on the dark web.
Victims can face long-term problems and stress if the data slips into the hands of threat actors. Organisations are also at risk of facing legal liability, reputational damage, and regulatory penalties for failing to keep confidential information safe. Dealing with people’s mortgages, retirement savings, and loans requires a strong relationship based on trust between banks and customers – and this is under threat.
With more financial institutions embracing the new digital age, banks have significantly expanded their attack surfaces. More businesses have cut back on brick-and-mortar branches, while newer challenger banks operate 100% digitally. Customers are also shifting towards digital tools to access their services. However, this explosion of digital avenues into financial institutions makes them easier targets for cyberattacks such as ransomware attacks, automated bot attacks that steal customer data and phishing attacks which trick people into sharing confidential information.
What makes banks difficult to protect?
Financial institutions operate in a complex and strict regulatory environment. This means that authorities impose severe penalties and fines in order to protect consumers and businesses, making the potential damage of a breach much more alarming.
Banks also have intricate infrastructures. Many of them have been transitioning between their old legacy infrastructure whilst trying to keep up with the rapid digital transformation that’s happening in the financial industry. Within a single organisation there could be hundreds of applications used by thousands of employees across numerous locations.
Financial organisations have a complicated security infrastructure in place that requires the coordination of multiple corporations, people and processes. When considering IT security, banks are also tasked with looking outward as well as inward. Financial transactions often require more than one entity and consequently more than one IT system.
To facilitate this process, many financial organisations depend on external service providers who use privileged accounts as a tool in their day-to-day processes. The larger and more complex systems get, more privileged users are required to have access to data. These individuals can be direct employees of the financial institution or they can be automated users, contractors, remote workers, or even IT support. Although this approach is usually indispensable, privileged accounts can pose a huge potential risk for the business.
When it comes to potential risks, privileged accounts can access valuable financial data and execute applications or transactions. They give users the “root” privileges and access to make monumental changes to systems, as well as the ability to cover up any of the activities they completed.
Privileged accounts are vital for the daily processes of financial institutions; however, businesses must ensure they are secure and managed accordingly. If not, hackers can easily get hold of root privileges and make radical changes that can potentially lead to serious consequences.
How Privileged Access Management solutions can help
The threat landscape is continuously changing and financial services must ensure they use a multi-layered approach when it comes to operations and security. This can present a unique set of challenges and the implementation of an advanced PAM (privileged access management) and EPM (Endpoint protection management) solution becomes a must to protect themselves from damaging attacks and fully ensure the safety and security of critical data and systems.
When the behaviour of privileged users is monitored and managed by a PAM & EPM systems, financial organisations’ data becomes more secure and compliant through:
- Having a password vault eliminating shared account access and enforce password rotation
- Establishing a zero-trust policy when it comes to privileged access, and elevated privilege just in time to access applications
- Monitoring and recording privileged sessions for future proof and audit purposes
Quick and secure authorisation, re-authorisation and monitoring of all privileged users are some of the advantages that can be easily facilitated with PAM & EPM. The solution can help the financial sector by reinforcing access security through password management, ensuring compliance with the latest regulations, and providing the required information to auditors.
PAM & EPM solutions also impose policies that restrict privileged users from bypassing security systems. It secures privileged accounts and allows financial organisations to proactively protect themselves. Controlling privileged access limits the moves a hacker can make after they have established a foothold within a network.
This greatly reduces their ability to move laterally and access sensitive systems. It allows you to maintain complete control over all privileged users with complete logs on access and all actions taken during a privileged session. PAM is essential for effective cybersecurity because it places control over access to an organisation’s most critical information assets.
With the threat landscape constantly changing, it is mandatory for financial organisations to have an easy-to-use and flexible security solution in place that can easily adapt to the on-going changes in the environment. With the right privileged access security steps in place, a hacker’s capacity to escalate privileges and access confidential information such as customer PII are greatly mitigated.
This is why Privileged Access Management and End Point management becomes crucial for financial institutions that want to protect both themselves and their customers by staying secure and compliant.