3 simple steps to improve bank security

In 2015, bank security and the financial sector in general moved from the third most attacked industry—behind healthcare and manufacturing—to the first in 2016. This was largely due to a rise in SQL injection and operating system command injection attacks, which have become popular given the successful exploitation of these vulnerabilities allow attackers to read, modify, and destroy sensitive data.

As expected, hackers prize the large volume of personally identifiable information (PII) contained in the databases of financial institutions, because they can use it to hold an organisation to ransom or sell it for a handsome profit. It’s tempting to obsess over external bank security issues, but IT managers in the banking industry need to be mindful of and address the following internal threats.

1. Overcome human fallibility

A whopping 95 percent of information security incidents involve human error. Breaches include employees mishandling confidential data, a lack of system controls, responding to phishing emails or downloading rogue files, and violations of industry and government regulations. Further, costs for insider breaches were found to be significantly higher in heavily regulated industries, such as banking.

While it may be impossible to eliminate human error, you can minimise it. Data security awareness and training are critical. Simulated phishing programs can train users on how to recognise and avoid these ruses. Given the likelihood of devices containing sensitive information being stolen or misplaced, strict encryption policies are also worth your time and effort.

Although restricting employee access can risk hampering productivity, all IT departments should install systems that measure compliance to isolate areas where bank security problems may come from. An attack may originate from a disgruntled employee with an axe to grind, for instance, but it’s more likely to be caused by a department working on outdated—and vulnerable—systems.

2. Invest in whiz-bang printers

As printer capabilities have become more advanced, they’ve also become more integrated into wider IT infrastructure. This makes them the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing; an overlooked and under resourced vulnerability that’s easy to exploit.

Printers are now vast repositories of commercially sensitive company data. Often, this data is financial or personally sensitive customer data. If you’re going to entrust a printer with that kind of responsibility, you’d better make sure it’s up for the job. Specifically, you’ll want to look for printers that feature powerful security features, such as run-time intrusion detection, which continuously monitors for malware attacks, and real-time threat detection, which detects and analyses critical security events tied to the printer.

3. Assess protection needs when coupling

In 2016, Security Scorecard analysed more than 3,000 financial institutions: The resulting Financial Industry Cybersecurity Report identified legacy systems resulting from mergers and acquisitions as a major danger zone. Such systems can be expensive to maintain, contain unpatched vulnerabilities, and often present challenges when it comes to software integration and architecture upgrading.

These older systems might not be updated and secured for an extended period, as well, resulting in extensive vulnerabilities. Although there’s no magic bullet, financial institution IT departments need to keep bank security front of mind when working on integration, compatibility, and merging architecture.

Recent research by Accenture also revealed an alarming gap between what banks and financial firms know about their security infrastructure versus the actual facts about their security infrastructure. While 78 percent of large enterprise security executives reported confidence in their cybersecurity, those large enterprises were fending off 85 targeted breach attempts every year, with one in three attacks proving successful.

A breach of bank security can prove extremely costly for an organisation, but by following these three steps, you can start protecting your business, its data, and the IT environment better. While the state of cyber risk is grim, you can avoid a terrible fate by staying on top of all the potential security risks your organisation faces today—and in the future.