How can the Financial Services Industry Cope with Evolving Cyber Threats?

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Jess Ng, Fortinet Country Head at Singapore and Brunei

From banks to insurance and fintech companies, the financial sector is grappling with new security issues brought forth by a shifting business and technology landscape. How can the financial services sector protect sensitive customer data, ensure business compliance, optimise processes, and manage costs to stay competitive in an industry with so many players? 

In Singapore, the banking and financial services sector is one of the top targets of spoofing, according to the latest Cyber Security Agency of Singapore report. The Association of Southeast Asian Network (ASEAN) Interpol Cyberthreat Assessment data for 2020 reveals that more than 21 percent of phishing attempts globally were aimed at ASEAN banks, which makes financial services organisations in the region the world’s most targeted brands for cyberattacks.

The financial services sector is a high-value target for cybercriminals and a highly regulated industry by jurisdictions around the world. Despite constant intrusion attempts and stringent regulatory requirements aimed at protecting consumers’ financial and personal data, banks and financial services organisations often find it difficult to move past a reactive cybersecurity stance.

Financial institutions have relied on traditional methods to safeguard their network by building defences around the borders, which includes securing the network edge, endpoint, and on-premise data centre. However, as employees continue to work from home due to the unyielding pandemic, remote employees require the same level of access, speed, customization, and performance as their in-office peers. These demands cause tremendous strain on current networks and in turn, put business-critical operations at risk. 

Security, the Backbone of Business

Ideally, there should be no trade-off between security and business performance. In an environment where security must be delivered to anyone in any place, legacy solutions struggle to meet the demands of modern businesses. Organisations should consider integrated tools or platforms to ensure consistent security and performance spanning from edge to edge. Security solutions that consider the various connected systems deployed across the network can more efficiently identify potential threats, share threat intelligence, and coordinate a unified and appropriate response.

As the network perimeter continues to dissolve, due in part to edge computing technologies and the global shift to remote work, organisations must make use of every security advantage that exists. In addition, automated threat detection and AI remain essential to enable organisations to address attacks in real-time and to mitigate attacks at speed and scale across all edges.

Minimise Security Blind Spots with Endpoint Threat Detection and Zero Trust Access

Based on a study conducted by Fortinet and Canam Research, 48 percent of the respondents share that endpoint security is a top-of-mind challenge for financial services organisations. The proliferation of IoT devices and the adoption of cloud technologies, as well as the switch to a hybrid work environment, has expanded the attack surfaces. To manage the risks, many financial institutions are deploying point security products to cover the gaps created by the expanding attack surface. However, the resulting security silos obfuscate visibility, which increases operational inefficiencies and amplify security risks

The first steps to address these challenges, especially for remote access, include moving to modern endpoint security solutions and embracing a zero-trust model. A zero-trust security model assumes that no user or device is trustworthy until proven otherwise. By implementing endpoint monitoring capabilities, businesses can identify and neutralise attempts to infiltrate the network early on. Real-time detection of non-compliant, suspicious, or anomalous behaviour that suggests compromise enables financial services firms to act fast before threats become serious security issues.

Security-Driven Approach to Networking for Visibility and Efficiency

To protect valuable intellectual assets and maintain business continuity, financial firms must acknowledge that the perimeter wall has crumbled. IT teams are finding it more difficult to maintain high performance and strong security for their company networks, in the face of increasingly complex IT infrastructures, hybrid cloud deployments and expanding attack surfaces.

The adoption of new remote-working technologies in the banking and financial services sector is challenging the outside-in security approach. A 2020 IBM survey found that organisations deploy approximately 45 different solutions on average, with most requiring coordination across 19 security tools. The IBM survey also notes that organisations often turn to point solutions designed to secure only a particular network segment. This disaggregation can create security gaps that cyber criminals use to gain unauthorized access, steal or corrupt data and systems, or even disrupt the economy.

To solve these issues, companies can take a security-driven approach to networking. This strategy integrates an organisation’s network and security architecture, allowing security to function as the key driver in business operations. Converging networking and security breaks down silos and encourages collaboration across the network. By adopting a security-driven approach to networking, businesses can embrace digital innovation without exposing critical assets to risks.  

As financial organisations accelerate the adoption of digital technologies, taking control of their networks requires increased visibility combined with actionable insights derived from threat intelligence. With a proactive approach to threat detection, banks and financial firms can add a layer of protection to the network by reducing the time to respond to threats and cybersecurity incidents. This is critical when you have users who are connecting from almost anywhere to resources that could be located almost anywhere else, enabling you to tell what’s going on so you can keep even the furthest reaches of your network as secure as possible.