While security breaches represent a clear and present danger for any business model, it is especially true for financial institutions – particularly those that are small to mid-sized and don’t necessarily have room for a building of IT experts in the operating budget.
Building out formal best practices and following them to the letter can save you from big headaches later on. With financial institutions of all sizes, it’s not an “if,” but a “when,” because they should expect that sooner or later, cybercriminals and other nefarious online actors will mount an attack on their systems.
Here are three steps every financial institution should take immediately to help mitigate their cybersecurity risks.
1. Build A Formal Framework For Cybersecurity/IT Best Practices
There are numerous security frameworks already established to assist financial institutions in managing their risk more effectively. The Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council created a thorough handbook covering security guidelines.
There are companies or websites that have extensive document collections or archives of white papers and guide documents to assist institutions with establishing a framework for best practices, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) created a guide for best practices in cybersecurity frameworks covering five key areas to focus on.
Whatever resource you choose to aid you, it’s important that you opt for something to help educate you on the risks posed to your institution and how a best-practices framework can help mitigate your risk and increase the likelihood that you will be able to deter or quickly detect all attacks as they come in.
2. Train Your Workforce
It often comes as a surprise in lectures and presentations to discover that even in this highly technological world, the majority of cybersecurity breaches are still due to relatively simple means of attack. Phishing scams are still one of the most common forms of attack, and an estimated 97 percent of internet users are unable to always identify them once received.
You might have the most advanced firewall and IS protocols in the world, but it still only takes one untrained employee to click on an emailed link that they shouldn’t have. Often that’s all it takes for a hacker to breach your system and wreak havoc. According to research from the SANS institute, spear phishing is responsible for 95 percent of all successful attacks on enterprise networks.
Once you’ve established your best practices, be sure to thoroughly train your workforce on how to identify and properly manage risks, so you don’t inadvertently become victim to an occurrence that on average costs companies $1.6 million per incident.
3. Perform Continuous Threat Monitoring
The importance of 24/7/365 threat monitoring can be critical, especially in finance. The necessity to monitor for threats every second of every day cannot be overstated, particularly as it relates to financial institutions.
Cybercriminals are constantly working to find a way into systems and will always attempt to obscure their tracks in their attempt to scuttle efforts to ferret them out. Once inside, hackers will seek to access every available connected system to seek valuable information.
When this breach involves a financial system, the damage can be catastrophic. Valuable information will be used to wire money to themselves, be siphoned off and sold, or as we’ve seen with ever increasing regularity over the past several years, the data may be encrypted by the criminal and held for ransom.
The key component that’s been observed to be one of the most vital in incidence of a breach of any institution, financial or otherwise, is the time to detection. The time it takes your firm to discover the breach can be the difference between a minor hiccup and a business-threatening ordeal.