TACKLING CYBERCRIME IN FINANCIAL SERVICES

By Oz Alashe, CEO, CybSafe

Oz Alashe, CEO,CybSafe
Oz Alashe, CEO,CybSafe

It feels that barely a day goes by without a business or government agency suffering a security breach. Victims lose money and sensitive personal information, while organisations suffer reputational damage and the possibility of fines. The scammers and hackers move on to new, unsuspecting victims.

2017 was a bumper year for cybercrime, costing organisations 23 percent more than in 2016. The consequences captured headlines almost daily: in May, a strain of ransomware called WannaCry spread globally, affecting public utilities and large, well-known corporations; in July, a third-party vendor working with Verizon exposed the data of as many as 14 million U.S. customers; in September, tax and auditing giant Deloitte confirmed that it was hit by a cyber attack, resulting in the theft of confidential documents and emails.

Looking behind the headlines, however, cybercrime didn’t occur consistently across all industries. Some industries were, and continue to be, more prized by criminals than others.

Breaking into the bank vaults

At the very top of the list in 2017 was finance. Last year, the cost of cybercrime for companies in financial services was higher than any other sector. Organisations in the sector are roughly 30 percent more likely to be targeted than those from other areas.

Recent, high-profile examples include Tesco Bank, where customers were defrauded of £2.5 million, Equifax, which lost control of 143 million records, including sensitive, identity-related personal information, and UniCredit, Italy’s main bank, which was breached with biographical and loan data from 400,000 client accounts taken.

The heightened threat of cybercrime for the financial sector has proved to be overwhelming, with most companies failing to keep pace with the growing challenges of the cybersecurity sector. Each fresh scandal and disaster often comes as a shock to C-suite executives who, in the majority of cases, assumed their processes would be strong enough to deal with any possible threats.

With a criminal arms race in the financial market, those working in the space need to be equipped and capable of winning the battle. But where should financial services businesses begin in order to address the threat?

The human attack vectors

One, often overlooked aspect in the industry, is the human component- the threats posed to financial institutions directly against their people and their customers. Banks and other commercial entities are often technologically fortressed but fail to have robust training in place for staff.

As history has shown, that threat can appear right at the very top: embarrassing phishing attacks have pranked the Morgan Stanley CEO, James Gormley, and the Bank of England’sMark Carney. Carney was lured into a conversation with a supposed “MrHabgood” about bank notes and alcohol, whilst Stanley was misled into an embarrassing email conversation following the bank’s annual general meeting by a man he assumed was Chairman John McFarlane.

Their examples aren’t anomalies. Exactly43 percent of all cyber attacks are ‘social’ attacks such as phishing.

Changing ccybersecurity behaviour

The problem remains: how do organisations tackle the problem of ‘social attacks’? Staff training is inevitably part of the solution, but actually changing cyber security behaviour amongst staff is easier said than done.

Giving staff training manuals is by no means a guarantee that they will absorb and act on that information. One-off training sessions similarly have little impact due to the required concentration for the training to be consumed, and cyber security hygiene inevitably deteriorates over the course of the year.

It should be evident, especially for highly-targeted financial institutions, that ‘traditional’ cyber security training isn’t enough.

Taking a modern approach financial cyber security training

To keep pace with the developing methods of criminals online, what businesses need – the financial sector most of all – is a new, effective approach; one which understands how people learn and has a tangible impact, not simply on the cyber security knowledge of staff, but on their behaviours.

Cyber security training should be regular- it’s well documented within educational psychology that people digest more information in smaller, regular bites. Training should recognise that different people learn in different ways, and should embrace modern technology that enables it to be done at a time and place convenient for the individual. Training should also involve testing, to ensure staff have retained information adequately and would be able to act on that information.

Effective cyber security rests on three essential pillars- technology, process and people. IT professionals and business leaders have tackled the technology and process aspects through firewalls, patching systems, and encrypting data. Reputationally and commercially, financial services organisations must now pay closer attention to the people aspect of an effective cyber security strategy. Security can longer be considered an appendage to the general operations of businesses; it has to be ingrained in company culture.

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