By Craig Pabich, Security Product Manager for Consolidated Communications
It was an unassuming Thursday morning in September when hackers in Russia, China and Vietnam joined forces to launch a DDoS attack against Hungarian financial institutions. Once taking control of a network of computers and devices, the hackers directed the botnet to flood Hungary's servers with massive amounts of traffic with the goal of obtaining sensitive information — a true detriment to institutions whose reputations rely on keeping that very information safe.
Most alarmingly, the traffic volume was nearly 10 times greater than a typical DDoS attack, those affected reported to Reuters. According to them, by all accounts they were dealing with one of the biggest hacker attempts in Hungary in both size and complexity.
Thanks to swift action by telecom professionals, the attack was repelled after only a short disruption in services. Unfortunately, that's not usually the case.
Others in the financial sector should take heed: the size of the attack hints that more sophisticated digital ambushes are on the way for your institutions, which historically are some of the most hard-hit and frequent targets of cyber attacks.
Ransomware and DDoS Attacks Present Costly Challenges
In addition to DDoS schemes, ransomware attacks are expected to happen more frequently in 2021, with the goal of taking your business offline while you're stuck paying a hefty bill to regain access to your own data. Part of the cause for these cybersecurity trends is pandemic related. A larger-than-average workforce using unsecure home devices opens the door for crimes of opportunity for attackers who want to hold important information hostage at your expense. Based on recent data, these attempts can mean 233 days of negotiation or downtime for financial institutions and carry a nearly $4 million price tag—a figure that has increased by 10% since 2014, according to the Ponemon Institute, which releases a yearly report on data breach costs.
When people think about the cost of a data breach, the obvious price tags come to mind: the dollar signs involved with recovering and rebuilding data and damaged systems. But many companies also have to deal with customers and partners seeking legal recourse over inadequately protected data. In addition, post-attack investigations and remediation are often required. Not to mention the cost of lost business and the loss of brand reputation that can take years to recover.
That seems like a lot of predicted doom and gloom for a year still in its first months, but there is good news for financial institutions that have begun to turn to cloud services in search of resiliency and a more flexible computing strategy amid the pandemic. By outsourcing security to the cloud in the face of mounting cyber threats, financial institutions are finding that there's a silver lining, and it's literally in the cloud.
Cloud Adoption for Banks Slow but Sure
The move to the cloud for financial institutions has only picked up momentum in the past five years, with cloud service providers offering a clear path to digital transformation for banks and other financial entities. Among the financial sector, adoption of cloud services spans the globe with Forbes reporting Bank of America (U.S.), BNP Paribas (France), Lloyds (England and Wales), Westpac (Australia), PecunPay (Spain) and Toho Bank (Japan) being among the biggest banks to lean into digital transformation via the cloud. Even though the transition started recently, it is likely to be quick. As much as 60 percent of all IT infrastructure will be in the cloud by the end of this year, leading to long-term savings for adopters thanks to the lower cost of ownership (when managed properly), and financial institutions won't want to be left behind.
Other benefits of cloud adoption for those in the financial sector include agility, risk mitigation and peace of mind. For executives who are rightfully cautious about their internal and customer data, appetite is growing for cloud-based security products.
Banks can now easily add new locations to their existing footprint and seamlessly launch them in the cloud without onboarding hassles. As financial institutions expand, cloud-based security eliminates the need for expensive hardware at each location, leading to cost savings. It means managed, fixed costs with no patches, updates, or budgeting guess work required. But most importantly, it allows growing businesses to stay protected, with no ramp-up time to speak of. All of that equals peace of mind for bank executives and IT managers who can rest easy knowing their network's security is in capable hands. An added bonus is that the company's IT team doesn't have to spend their time running updates, patches and managing upgrades; instead, they can focus on their core functions with fewer distractions.
At Consolidated Communications, security is priority number one for our Cloud Secure platform, which uniquely integrates next-gen firewall capabilities and threat intelligence to allow your IT resources to stay focused on strategic initiatives.
The biggest benefit that leads financial players to adopt the Cloud Secure platform is easy maneuvering through audits, which require institutions to prove how they are protecting their customers' data. Not only are the financial entities happy to have a capable partner that can help document and prove their ongoing efforts to protect data, but customers are visibly relieved to have Cloud Secure in place, so those audits and regulatory reviews are easier.
What Cloud Secure offers is a four-pronged approach: threat prevention, URL filtering, a malware prevention feature called WildFire® and another proprietary service known as GlobalProtect™.
Our Threat Prevention and URL Filtering work together to protect employees from known or identified threats, and ones that lurk behind URLs that an employee may accidentally click or malicious sites they try to visit. Then, WildFire® serves as another constant set of eyes on your network traffic, ready to stop evolving threats that have yet to be fully identified as a virus. The potential threats are blocked before they can impact your network. WildFire® takes it a step further then to update the Threat Prevention database to then protect your users from the newly identified threat—even when they are working remotely . You can see how those three pieces really complement each other and work together to provide robust wraparound security that is always on and always up to date.
The last piece of the puzzle is GlobalProtect™, which is the saving grace for the work-from-home orders many companies are under. GlobalProtect™ expands your protection well beyond the primary office site to monitor network traffic wherever your employees are, whether at home or on the road.
Altogether, when considering the rising threats, financial institutions need the latest security tools to achieve the elusive IT peace of mind. An outsourced cloud security service managed by experts is a key factor to making your digital transformation strategy work and ensuring uninterrupted, secure platforms for priority number one: the customer.
Craig Pabich has worked in product management for 24 years, 11 of which have been with Consolidated Communications. Craig has spent the last several years focusing on Consolidated's security product portfolio, launching the cloud security service provider partnership with Palo Alto Networks. Craig holds a bachelor's degree in business administration marketing from University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
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