Dirk Paessler is CEO of Paessler, a network monitoring software developer based in Nuremberg, Germany
With large scale cyber-attacks rarely out of the headlines in 2015, including a near-billion dollar heist in February and the dridex malware continuing to leech money from bank accounts, this was a year for jitters in the fintech industry. The financial service sector has taken great strides forward in adapting to an increasingly digital world, but in so doing has opened itself up to a raft of IT security threats.
As more and more retail banking services migrate online, anti-virus software is the new steel vault door. Where once the location of the branch was paramount, now the priority is to have a high performance 24-hour website that enables customers to access services as and when they need them.
This 24-7 way of working presents IT teams with a number of challenges – not least the need to keep tabs on a vast number of moving parts. Virus updates, firewalls, and regular backups may all come with their own software which can schedule and monitor their own operations, but put them together and you get a confusing mishmash that can all too easily let key insights slip by unnoticed.
At the same time as checking in on your infrastructure, you need to get a handle on what irregular activity actually looks like. The tell-tale signs of malware having got past your security can be as simple as a traffic spike on your system. And if you’re not looking in the right place or at the right time, this might go undetected. Having software which can recognise the expected traffic and alert you when it is exceeded is essential if you’re going to be confident in the security of your network.
On top of this, there are the physical devices in the bank itself: key systems, fire alarms, security cameras, and so on. They too need careful monitoring as to their status at all times.
The answer is a unified monitoring solution that can meet the specific needs of financial services companies, offering a comprehensive approach to security across three main areas:
- Control of conventional IT security tools
- Fallback for IT security by detecting unusual activity
- Monitoring physical security devices
If you are serious about security, you will quickly run into a costly problem. The simple fact that a bank has so much infrastructure, from small branches to networks of ATMs and multiple offices, makes it very expensive to install monitoring software for every location. Remote probes provide a cost-efficient solution by gathering data across many locations and feeding it back to a centralised system. For multinationals this means it is possible to monitor the firewalls of branches in Tokyo, London and New York simultaneously, which is a fact of convenience as well as cost-effectiveness.
Any time, any place
More than any other industry, financial brands need their customers to have a reliable, stable service to gain trust. Even the smallest irregularity can confuse and panic consumers if they feel that their savings are at stake. This requires always-on operations, including equipment, applications and staff. A monitoring software tool can help, with mobile access ensuring that all systems can be monitored at any time of the night or day, from any location.
Keeping it simple
Unified monitoring will be a key part of ongoing efforts to ensure tighter financial cybersecurity, enabling banks to operate safely and reliably. However, to be truly useful, it will need to implement the principles of usability and simplicity. And as both cyber attacks and defence complexity increase, the importance of clarity and foresight will only increase.