finance

Three Tips to Combat Cyber-threats in the Financial Industry

No firm in the financial industry has been unaffected by digital transformation. Even over the last three years of tech advancements and a global pandemic, there have been seismic shifts in the landscape. 

There have been huge advancements in improving efficiency and the quality of customer service, as well as beneficial internal changes like the adoption of cloud technologies. 

But, of course, bad has come with the good. 

With the opportunities have come cybersecurity challenges—among the main issues are the need to protect customer and employee personally identifiable information (PII) as well as company data. Keeping data and networks secure is a constant race against cybercriminals, especially in the financial industry where the monetary targets are particularly tempting. 

Data breaches and ransomware attacks have been causes not only of financial loss for organizations in the industry, but for reputational damage. Bouncing back from a cybersecurity-related loss is becoming difficult as public attention turns to enterprises and their responsibilities around privacy and data protection

Here are three tips that all organizations in the credit, banking, and insurance industries could benefit from: 

1. Prioritize Employee Cyber Hygiene

Many cyber attacks have one common source: human error. Whether it’s a single compromised credential, an unknowing click on a phishing email, or improper use of permissions, employees and users are often their own worst enemies. 

Part of the solution comes down to educating employees on how to be safe online — through onboarding, training, and ongoing updates. However, education simply isn’t enough. Companies need to take responsibility and put controls in place on what their employees can access, including screening systems to detect and prevent the reuse of compromised credentials.

2. Prioritize Communication Channels 

Huge amounts of data and company information are stored within channels of communication: messaging systems of all varieties, but particularly email. When data is in transit, cybercriminals will focus, knowing not only that sensitive information and credentials might be available, but that there may be additional vulnerabilities. 

As workforces have become both more digital and, in recent years, more remote, the proliferation of applications means there are even more channels to secure—from Zoom and Microsoft Teams to all sorts of Slack channels. Making sure your company password policies extend to every application employees are using will allow greater protection of sensitive data. 

3. Keeping Up-To-Date 

Digital changes continue to accelerate. Updates and patches are crucial as the race against cybercriminals continues, and as DevOps teams find vulnerabilities in their own work. Requiring employees to keep software up-to-date is essential. Some patches increase or expand functionality, but others are specifically released to ensure safety. 

Remember: we’re in this together!

The effect of breaches is cumulative—they are interconnected events with chain-reaction effects. With each additional breach, regardless of whether your enterprise is directly impacted, the potential dangers to your network increase, especially when you think about how many individuals reuse their usernames and passwords across personal and professional boundaries. Cybercriminals are eager to get their hands on credentials, knowing the payoff is likely more than meets the eye. 

The financial marketplace is competitive, but reputation is the invisible currency that each organization relies on. Customer loyalty is hard to gain and easy to lose—so when a breach, error, or ransomware attack does affect them, the impact can go beyond the immediate financial implications. Learn more about how financial service firms can shore up cybersecurity defenses now.