According to X-Force Threat Intelligence Index 2019, the financial sector was the most attacked industry in 2018. In fact, it held the record for the most active cybercrime hotspot for three years in a row. And that’s not all; cyber incidents in banking organizations are far more devastating and costly than in other businesses. Why is this the case, and what can you do to protect your organization against data loss and other digital threats?
What makes banks so vulnerable?
Banks and similar institutions are highly data-centric. Continually collecting and harboring millions of sensitive records containing high-value personally identifiable information (PII) such as full names, SSN, contact info, and banking details. Plus, banks are where the money is. These two motivations drive hackers to devise clever and sophisticated digital threats to steal data from banking organizations.
Traditionally, the banking sector has been strictly conservative with its business operations and customer interactions. But that has drastically changed in recent years. More banks embrace digitization through online and mobile banking, blockchain integrations, FinTech enterprises, and robotic process automation. And like other industries, the banking sector has quickly readjusted its business processes following the COVID-19 pandemic. More organizations are switching to contactless services, shrinking their human interactions through digital transformations to keep customers and staff safe.
Adopting a digital front is vital in a dynamic marketplace where clients rely heavily on internet services, smartphones, and social media. But on the other hand, digitization expands the cyber threat surface, increasing an organization’s vulnerability to more risks. And that is exactly what’s happening with the banking industry.
Top 3 cybersecurity threats in the banking sector
In the post-pandemic world, hackers are taking advantage of vulnerable supply chains, institutions, and customers with low digital experience and the newly established remote working culture to exploit security loopholes in banks. Here is a summary of three digital threats facing financial organizations:
Credential and identity theft
Identity theft is the cornerstone of financial fraud and banking-related cyberattacks. A hacker posing as a legitimate customer using stolen credentials and personal details can easily infiltrate a user account and use it as a gateway to access critical IT assets. Reports of phishing and credential-stealing malware targeted at banking websites and apps, such as Cerberus and EventBot19, surged since early 2020.
The social engineering behind cyber incidents involving banks is on another whole level compared to what we see in other niches. Attackers use every trick in the book, from misinformation and spoofing to emerging technologies such as deep fakes, to orchestrate foolproof scams on unsuspecting employees and customers. Hackers can basically get innocent victims to open and hold the door for them through a simple email or phone call.
Threat actors can gain access to digital resources or manipulate data using sophisticated multi-stage malware attacks. Intelligent trojans and ransomware, such as ZBOT and Citadel, can sit strategically undetected in servers and computers for months or even years while collecting data and making subtle manipulations to pave the way for more devastating attacks.
Five ways banks can prevent data loss
Securing data in banking services requires a holistic approach to prevent internal and external data losses. That means involving staff members, customers, and third-party affiliates in a unified cybersecurity effort. Below are five tips for mitigating digital threats in the financial sector:
- Use multi-factor authentication (including biometrics).
- Educate employees and customers on existing threats and cybersecurity best practices.
- Maintain continuous and transparent communications with customers.
- Invest in modern cyber defenses and security solutions.
- Maintain data safety and privacy compliance and demand that third-party contractors do the same.
A new report estimates the global monetary losses from cybercrime in 2020 to reach nearly $1 trillion ($945 billion). This record figure is due to emerging new threats fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic. The banking sector is naturally attractive to cybercriminals and bears the brunt of these financial losses. In short, digital threats should not be taken lightly, especially in a business sector that’s a mouthwatering prey for sophisticated threat actors.