Essential Cybersecurity Checklist and Tips for Banks and Financial Institutions

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Banks and financial institutions store sensitive customer information such as social security numbers, bank account details, and credit/debit card data, often targeted by cybercriminals for identity theft, fraud, or other illicit purposes. If successful cyber attackers gain access to this data, they could engage in identity theft schemes that result in financial losses to both the bank and customer alike and reputational damage that leads to legal liabilities for both.

Due to an explosion of cyber attacks, businesses must create effective cybersecurity incident response plans and regularly test these in a simulation environment to ensure they hold water.

Financial industry compliance mandates protect customers. Cybercriminals have historically targeted banking and are subject to various government-mandated cybersecurity policies that must be observed. Working with an expert cybersecurity consulting services provider like Closeloop makes the process fast and straightforward, but you can also take some simple steps on your own.

Accenture released a report showing that over the past 12 months, banks experienced an average of 85 serious breach attempts per bank annually, and 36% revealed they had stolen data, taking an average of 59 days to detect an attack despite offering substantial financial rewards to cyber-criminals. Banks continue to be targeted due to this reality.

What Is Cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity protects digital systems, networks, and data against unauthorized access, theft, or damage by taking measures and technologies that ensure confidentiality, integrity, and availability of stored and processed information stored and processed on computer systems. Three critical components of cybersecurity include:

  • Prevention involves taking measures to ward off unauthorized access or breaches

  • Detection consists of identifying threats and vulnerabilities within systems

  • The response involves taking necessary actions in response to any security incidents that might arise.

Critical Components of a Cybersecurity Strategy

Employing robust and secure cybersecurity consulting solutions is essential for businesses and organizations to protect digital assets, maintain customer trust, comply with regulations, and meet compliance needs. Here are the basic essential elements found within an effective cybersecurity plan:

  • Risk Analysis: Understanding your organization's risks is at the core of an effective cybersecurity strategy. Conduct a complete risk analysis to identify any threats, vulnerabilities, or impacts to help prioritize efforts and allocate resources efficiently.

  • Security Policies and Procedures: Create clear, comprehensive security policies and procedures that outline employee roles and responsibilities, acceptable technology use practices, and steps taken should an incident arise. Review these regularly so they reflect changes to technology or threats landscape.

  • Network and Endpoint Security: Implement strong network and endpoint security measures such as firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems, antimalware software, and secure Wi-Fi access points to ensure network and endpoint safety. Regularly patch software updates or releases to address known vulnerabilities.

  • Access Controls: Implement strict access controls to limit access to sensitive information and systems, with role-based access control mechanisms, multi-factor authentication systems, and regular audits of user privileges in place to reduce any chance of unapproved entry or use. This should help avoid accidental or unwanted private or sensitive data intrusion by third parties.

  • Data Encryption: Protect sensitive data at rest and transit with encryption for extra security against unlawful parties and attackers who attempt to gain entry. Encrypting sensitive files makes access more challenging, thus increasing overall protection from threats that threaten sensitive information.

  • Incident Response Plan (IRP): Create an incident response plan outlining your organization's steps should there be any security breach, outlining communication protocols, roles, and responsibilities, as well as guidelines for remediation and recovery. This should provide for maximum response capacity during an incident response event.

  • Third-Party Risk Management: Evaluate the cybersecurity posture of third-party vendors and partners that might pose vulnerabilities to your organization's security, creating strict requirements and regularly checking compliance of these third parties.

By including these essential components in its cybersecurity plan, your organization will be better prepared to protect its digital assets, build customer trust, and limit costly security incidents.

Importance of Cyber Security in Business

Businesses face increasing threats related to fintech services risks, with growing dependence on technological systems in society and data leakage exposing sensitive personal information publicly published across different social media channels. This results in identity theft becoming ever more prominent.

Sensitive information such as credit card data, social security numbers, and bank account details are increasingly stored on cloud storage services like Google Drive and Dropbox - making it more straightforward for cybercriminals to exploit them for illicit gain.

At its core lies a harsh reality: every individual, small business, and multinational giant alike rely on computer networks every day, be they personal, trade, or otherwise. Cloud services with inadequate protection smartphones connected via IoT technologies, as multiple potential security holes were never before an issue until recently.

Thus, governments worldwide prioritize cybercrimes by raising awareness among organizations of proper security precautions for small businesses.

How Has Cybercrime Evolved?

Cybercrime has reached an all-time high as cyber-attacks become increasingly frequent and targeted. According to Accenture and Ponemon Institute's Ninth Annual Cost of Cybercrime Study, average costs associated with cybercrime for organizations have increased by $1.4 Million year-on-year to reach $13.0 Million; at the same time, data breaches rose 11% year on year from 145 cases recorded last year to 171.

Criminals have increasingly focused on businesses' information stored by thieves; information theft is one of the costliest and fastest-growing types of cybercrime. This trend can be partly attributed to companies storing identifiable data through cloud services, which increases exposure. Although theft may be their ultimate aim, other methods include altering or destroying files with the goal of sowing mistrust in organizations or governments.

Social engineering remains one of the primary forms of cyberattack, with ransomware and phishing attacks as popular methods to gain entry to businesses' critical systems and networks. Third-party risk is on the rise as criminals target third or fourth-party vendors like IT Consulting services providers for access to companies they work with; all this has only increased the urgency and significance of cybersecurity management measures among organizations.

What Are the Consequences of Cybercrime?

Many factors contribute to the cost of cybercrime, one such cause being a need for more focus on cybersecurity best practices.

Economic Costs

Intellectual property theft, corporate information leakage, trade disruption, and repair costs of damaged systems all pose substantial threats.

Reputational Damage

Once their data has been compromised, customers may quickly lose trust in your ability to keep it secure in the future - leading them away from you and towards competitors instead of you and reducing revenue accordingly. Cyber attacks can cause irreparable harm both to reputations and bottom lines alike.

Loss of Business Data

Cyber attackers don't discriminate regarding what types of data they steal for identity theft purposes - whether customer records for customer account takeover purposes, intellectual property theft, employee records for strategic planning, or employee hacked during employee theft incidents.

Intellectual property theft can be brutal to recover from; you are losing potential income-generating ideas that have already been developed and all the money spent growing them in the first place.

Financial Costs

Cyber attacks often leave their victims financially devastated. Ransomware attacks hold data for ransom until a significant fee is paid - in many instances, even after having spent, the data remains irretrievable, leading to crippled business operations and outflow costs associated with recovering this data.

Regulatory Costs

GDPR and other data breach laws could expose your organization to regulatory fines or sanctions due to cybercrimes.

Businesses of any size must ensure all staff understand cybersecurity threats and how to mitigate them, with regular training programs and frameworks that strive to minimize data leakage or breach risk.

Due to cybercrime's challenging nature and difficulty of detection, its costs can often remain unknown, and indirect costs of security breaches are hard to ascertain. But that does not negate reputational damage associated with even minor data breaches or security incidents from becoming serious threats over time; consumers expect ever more sophisticated cybersecurity measures from businesses they patronize.

Common Types of Cyber Attacks

Organizations face numerous types of cybersecurity attacks. Below are examples of some common ones:

Advanced Persistent Threat (APT)

In this type of APT attack, hackers gain entry to networks over an extended period to obtain confidential data they hold as soon as they gain access.

Malware Attacks

Malware attacks refer to malicious software that infiltrates computers and devices with viruses, trojans, and worms to cause significant harm and steal personal information from systems or networks. Malware can wreak havoc across systems or networks while accessing or exfiltrating critical systems and information systems containing valuable assets or confidential documents.

Phishing Attacks

Phishing attacks are attempts by fraudsters to obtain sensitive data such as passwords, credit card details, and personal details for financial gain through emails, texts, and phone calls that appear legitimate and purport to originate from legitimate sources.

Denial of Service (DOS)

DDoS attacks involve flooding networks with traffic to unwittingly leave legitimate requests unattended and leave honest services without assistance. A variant is distributed denial of service (DDOS), where multiple systems collaborate in carrying out this attack.

SQL Injection

A hacker manipulates a standard SQL query on a database-driven website through SQL Injection attacks, where an attacker inserts malicious SQL code directly into an app's input fields or parameters before having them executed by its backend database.

Cryptojacking

Cryptojacking is an act of cybercrime in which an attacker knowingly utilizes another individual or organization's computing resources for mining cryptocurrency illegally.

High-powered computer systems are necessary for crypto mining, so hackers often target such computers and hack them, typically beginning as a phishing attack and running crypto mining scripts in the background - these attacks do not typically compromise computers, victims' data, or services; instead, they consume CPU processing resources and deplete their resources as processing power is consumed for mining cryptocurrency.

Checklist for Banks and Financial Institutions

As cloud technology becomes ever more pervasive, data can now be accessed anywhere on any device from anywhere - making security considerations vitally crucial in these environments. Companies need to consider carefully:

  • How can they measure and monitor security on an ongoing basis in their cloud environment?

  • How should this process take place daily?

  • What Does Security Compliance Represent?

  • Do They Measure Security Propositions for Resources? And if yes, do They have tools and personnel to assess security levels within these resources, including understanding technology in case of compromise or attack?

  • Does their business have an effective security monitoring plan in place at multiple levels of service delivery?

Cybersecurity threats in today's digital environment have grown increasingly complex and sophisticated, necessitating banks and financial institutions to implement comprehensive fintech development services backed up with security frameworks that counter these evolving cyber threats.

Zero Trust Model

At first, everyone came into one central place--an office--for monitoring purposes. Now, though, as they move into cloud services like AWS or Microsoft Azure, they need some means of keeping tabs on everything going wrong with apps moving out into multiple cloud providers (A, Microsoft Azure, etc.) and then having one centralized way of tracking and monitoring this whole situation more easily than before compared to before!

Today, more and more businesses are adopting the Zero Trust Model into their infrastructure.

The Zero Trust model is a security framework and approach that relies on no trust for any user, device, or network component inside and outside an organization's perimeter. Instead of depending on traditional network boundaries for protection, zero-trust requires users and devices to undergo an authentication process regardless of location or network connection status; continuous monitoring with access control measures in place and least privilege principles are critical features of the zero-trust security model.

Zero Trust rests upon certain principles as its foundation:

Multi-Factor Authentication

MFA or Multi-Factor Authentication enshrines one of the fundamental tenets of Zero Trust. MFA provides robust protection from data breaches in several access control systems and applications, helping ensure user privacy is preserved at all costs.

As proposed by multi-factor authentication, any time someone attempts to access a resource, they must first be authenticated through multi-factor authentication - meaning not simply using their corporate username and password for login but using another form of verification such as authenticator apps on phones, etc).

Network Segmentation

When operating a corporate network, its network must be segmented into several smaller chunks or segments for safety purposes and isolation from one another. If any one component were compromised due to an attack, then others remain undisturbed by this event.

To properly implement and comprehend it, knowledge of existing architecture is necessary to divide it into smaller segments more efficiently.

Limit Access Time

Another principle involves limited access time. Depending on your system configuration, users will only gain entry for an assigned period.

Establish Risks

Work closely with your chief information officer (CIO) to identify top cybersecurity risks and develop mitigation policies. Employee training on best cybersecurity practices and informing clients on protecting their private and financial data is also vitally important.

Make it part of your routine to conduct tests on and update the security systems you rely upon to minimize cyber attacks. By being proactive with security measures, you could successfully avoid many attacks from occurring in the first place.

Mitigate Damage

A security breach in your finance department can cost both money and reputation, but there are ways you can mitigate its damage. Clarifying your IRP so employees and partners know their responsibilities should an attack take place.

Establish safeguards to minimize any possible harm from cybercriminals who target your business, and assign employees with one point of contact to whom they should report any signs of potential cyberattack.

Reassess Vulnerabilities

An essential step of cybersecurity practices should include regularly reassessing vulnerable areas. Monitor systems for possible attacks and perform security audits after significant transactions to keep systems reliable and updated. If potential, partner with a cybersecurity provider to run complete assessments to see which vulnerabilities exist within your systems that could expose them to attacks.

Train Employees

Provide employees with knowledge of cybersecurity best practices and data protection principles. As employees are usually the first line of defense against cyber attacks, training them on these threats and handling them properly is vitally important.

Regular Risk Assessments

Perform regular risk analyses to identify vulnerabilities, including software and hardware updates, penetration testing, and network traffic for any strange activity or abnormal behavior on a network.

Encryption

By employing encryption to safeguard all sensitive information in transit and at rest - including on servers, laptops, and mobile devices -sensitive information remains safe from prying eyes and attacks.

Plan Regular Backup and Disaster Recovery Plans

Businesses must create regular backup and disaster recovery plans in case of cyber attacks and test these regularly to verify they work as intended.

Implement Firewalls and Antivirus Software

Implement firewalls and antivirus software to defend against cyber threats like malware and viruses, keeping up-to-date with security patches as they arrive.

Implement Secure Payment Systems

Secure payment systems are vital in protecting customer information during transactions and ensuring they adhere to industry regulations such as PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard).

Cloud Security

Businesses increasingly realize the many productivity and efficiency gains by migrating virtualized assets and workloads to public cloud environments, as these environments become prime targets for hackers.

As part of your partnership with a public cloud provider, it's critical that you fully comprehend your cyber security obligations within a shared responsibility model. While the cloud provider assumes primary responsibility for safeguarding its environment, you protect assets stored inside.

Automation

Cybersecurity processes usually include numerous manual processes. Automating these tasks not only streamlines and makes your operation more efficient (allowing you to invest those savings elsewhere), but it can also significantly reduce human error - helping detect legitimate security alerts more quickly, taking appropriate actions against any threats before hackers have the opportunity to steal and exfiltrate sensitive data from you.

Ongoing Monitoring

As cyber security solutions evolve to combat modern threats, cyber attackers have adjusted by developing advanced tools like artificial intelligence to exploit vulnerabilities more successfully and breach insecure networks. This requires continuous monitoring.

Establish processes and personnel who regularly evaluate your cyber security stack for new vulnerabilities while staying abreast of cyber security developments. Gathering this data may enable upgrades or patch each vulnerability as soon as it emerges.

Strong Password Protection

Employee negligence is often at the root of successful cybersecurity attacks. With improper password practices easily exploitable by hackers, hackers could exploit them to break into bank accounts, enterprise apps, and company devices owned by their employer.

Train employees on how to avoid common password pitfalls (using common words or phrases, sharing passwords with untrustworthy parties, and reusing passwords across multiple accounts) while creating stronger passwords with symbols, numbers, and upper and lower case letters for added protection.

Multi-Factor Authentication

Multi-factor authentication provides companies and their employees with another layer of protection when accessing company apps, portals, emails, or other access points that utilize this authentication technique. When trying to gain entry via multi-factor authentication-enabled accounts, users will be asked to prove their authorization using multiple means - in addition to traditional login credentials they should already recognize in the system; they may also receive an auth code sent directly to their phone number or email.

Data Backups

No matter our best efforts to stop all attacks from happening, cybercriminals sometimes succeed in breaching systems and stealing data. To limit damage from an unsuccessful attack attempt by taking preventative steps before it happens.

Routine data backup and storage in an off-site, secure location is vitally important to protecting both enterprise and consumer information from being stolen by hackers, thus decreasing their leverage for demanding pricey ransom payments from you. Furthermore, such preparation helps bolster any post-attack recovery plans necessary for swift business recovery efforts.

Cyber Security Software

While finding the appropriate cyber security solution will depend on your specific business objectives and requirements, any right solution should provide all the tools necessary for centralizing security detection and response tasks and streamlining them effectively.

Combine it with antivirus software for maximum efficiency! A top-quality cyber security solution should allow your teams to sift through and analyze log information quickly to identify genuine security threats so your resources can be prioritized accordingly for faster response times.

The Key Takeaway

Organizations should proactively safeguard their systems and customer data against cyber threats to secure financial assets, uphold customer trust, abide by regulations, protect sensitive data securely, ensure operational continuity, and strengthen overall financial ecosystem security.

However, this requires constant monitoring, identification of emerging threats, and investment in cybersecurity technologies and secure fintech services that ensure user data safety.

Closeloop offers expert cybersecurity guidance that can assist in creating the cybersecurity checklist your company requires, with our knowledgeable team designing tailored solutions based on your unique specifications. Reach out today.

 

Author

Assim Gupta

Saurabh Sharma linkedin-icon-squre

VP of Engineering

VP of Engineering at Closeloop, a seasoned technology guru and a rational individual, who we call the captain of the Closeloop team. He writes about technology, software tools, trends, and everything in between. He is brilliant at the coding game and a go-to person for software strategy and development. He is proactive, analytical, and responsible. Besides accomplishing his duties, you can find him conversing with people, sharing ideas, and solving puzzles.

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