Make cybersecurity a business-wide concern in your financial institution

April 14, 2022 Windstream Enterprise 5 min
Challenges to developing a strong cybersecurity system for banks and credit unions include keeping up with evolving regulatory oversight, finding competent cybersecurity experts, and managing hybrid work environments—and things are changing quickly.

Financial institutions are often targeted by cybercriminals due to the valuable personal identification information involved in the industry. In fact, a 2020 report claims that 80% of surveyed financial institutions reported an increase in cyberattacks over the previous 12 months.

Employees need to be aware of how their actions or computer systems could become a vulnerability for the entire organization.

The potential “cost of doing nothing” for finance companies is an annual average of $18.5 million spent on responding to cybercrime incidents. That isn’t even considering the potential damage to a company’s reputation and a loss of trust with customers. Clearly, cybercrime can be devastating for a bank or credit union of any size. 

In today’s world, cybersecurity can’t just be the responsibility of IT departments. IT teams are stretched thin, with limited resources and the increased demand and broadened “attack surface” presented by remote work. To keep data secure, every employee needs to be aware of how their actions or their computer systems could become a vulnerability for the entire organization. 

Cybersecurity challenges within financial services

There are many challenges to developing a strong cybersecurity system for banks and credit unions. Some of these are particular to the finance industry, while others are larger factors impacting all businesses.

Evolving regulatory oversight. Data protections and privacy regulations like the Gramm-Leach-Bliley (GLB) Act, PCI-DSS, and GDPR may put a strain on financial institutions, since these can require changes to data handling practices for compliance—and change can introduce vulnerabilities. It can be difficult to keep security systems updated in accordance with the latest cybersecurity laws and regulations. Therefore, an institution’s compliance team often becomes an important part of their overall cybersecurity strategy.

Organizations have rapidly expanded their network boundaries to accommodate employees working outside of the office, leading to new cybersecurity vulnerabilities.

Hiring competent and qualified cybersecurity experts. Many institutions struggle to have the IT staff and expertise needed to create and maintain cybersecurity standards.

Increasing remote and hybrid work environments. The new reality of widespread remote work also poses a challenge for cybersecurity. Over the past few years, organizations needed to rapidly expand their network boundaries to accommodate employees working outside of the office. Remote work led to new cybersecurity vulnerabilities, including personal devices being used for work and unsecured home Wi-Fi networks.

Cybersecurity solutions for financial services

Organizations are looking to establish robust cybersecurity policies and defenses that keep data secure while also being affordable and easy to maintain. Let’s review some cybersecurity tips to make it easier to protect your systems, and to help spread the responsibility for data and system security beyond in-house IT teams.

1. Mandate employee training

Employees need regular training on both cybersecurity protocols and the proper handling of sensitive information. Financial institutions should have policies regarding personal device usage, encrypting sensitive information and how to notice and report suspicious online behavior. Employees should receive regular cybersecurity training to ensure that they remember best practices.

2. Require multifactor authentication (MFA)

MFA requires users to verify their identities in two or more ways in order to access accounts, applications or VPNs. This is a basic cybersecurity tool that has become much more important in the remote work era. Users may be required to sign in with both a computer password and via an app on their phone, for example, which makes it much harder for malicious actors to gain access to sensitive systems and information. MFA is an important part of basic security hygiene, and requiring it across your organization is a good way to lower the odds of a serious security incident.

3. Implement Software-Defined Wide-Area Networking (SD-WAN) for remote access

SD-WAN can securely connect users over large geographical distances to an enterprise network. This can allow for remote access and optimized application performance. Users in different locations can benefit from protection tools like IPSec encryption and centralized application management. Financial institutions can also use SD-WAN as an ideal backbone for secure communication applications for voice, video and chat.

4. Embrace the full power of Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) tools 

A SASE framework is a modern cybersecurity strategy that converges cloud-native network and security into a fully integrated solution. This comprehensive architecture enables businesses to adapt to constantly shifting users, applications and work environments, by keeping all applications and security policies synchronized and defending sensitive data as more work is done on the cloud. SASE uses SD-WAN with a combination of security components, including Firewall as a Service to control traffic, Secure Web Gateway to defend against harmful websites and malware, and a Cloud Access Security Broker to apply security policies as users access cloud-based resources.

5. Keep systems secure with Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA)

Zero Trust works on one principle: Nothing can be trusted by default. This includes users, devices and networks. ZTNA works by requiring an additional layer of authentication before granting access. This can keep work secure, regardless of whether the user is remotely working from home, attending a business conference or working from the office.

6. Ensure secure connections to private and public clouds 

The realities of modern work involve the flow of information from devices and computers to both public and private cloud platforms. Cloud providers like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud host and support applications and mission-critical services, so it’s essential that the work moving to and from these clouds is kept secure. Using the right kind of network security will provide the needed defense in the background, while allowing network activity to move without interruption. 

Managed cybersecurity solutions for financial services

It’s challenging to continually stay on top of evolving cybersecurity needs. Organizations require secure and uninterrupted access to networks and cloud-based resources, but often struggle to maintain their security systems. The easiest way to keep your institution safe without overwhelming limited IT resources is to use a managed cybersecurity solution. 

Managed security solutions allow your organization to adopt new tools and resources as needed to keep critical data safe, while offloading the labor burden to an external team of security experts. Between establishing cybersecurity best practices throughout your organization and getting your IT team the help they need to do the job, you’ll be setting your business up to remain safe as you modernize your operations. 

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Key Takeaway
A managed security solution allows organizations to adopt resources as needed to protect critical data, and cybersecurity best practices set them up to remain safe as they modernize operations.

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