Financial Institutions Should Boost Their Efforts to Thwart Cyberattacks
By Bob Thibodeaux, Chief Information Security Officer, DefenseStorm
Consumer data is one of the most valuable assets for organizations around the world. In fact, it’s been said that consumer data is as good as gold.
And like gold, data is a commodity. However, companies profiting by accessing and storing this data have the responsibility to keep it safe. Protecting data has even become a consumer expectation thanks to breaches such as Equifax in 2017 (which recently finalized a settlement of up to $425 million) and LinkedIn and Facebook just last year.
Today, however, companies don’t just put consumer interest on the line when building their cybersecurity. They can now face new, severe legal action.
Implementing legislation in hopes to minimize damage
The Biden administration recently issued Binding Operational Directive 22-01, requiring most federal agencies to patch hundreds of cybersecurity vulnerabilities considered major risks for damaging intrusions including data breaches or compromise of government computer systems.
Specifically, “Organizations of all sizes, including the federal government, must protect against malicious cyber actors who seek to infiltrate our systems, compromise our data, and endanger American lives,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement alongside the directive. The new order “requires federal civilian departments and agencies to protect against critical known vulnerabilities, which will reduce the risk of malicious intrusion and increase our collective cybersecurity.”
What this boils down to is federal institutions, banks, credit unions and fintech nationwide must find ways to comply with these new cybersecurity standards and mandates. But how? What if you are already behind the 8 ball? What can be done not only to improve but catch up?
Meeting challenge with opportunity
While the new government mandate might seem an insurmountable challenge to all but the big corporations, it isn’t. Rather, it’s an opportunity to shore up security and thwart cyberattacks and data breaches.
Financial institutions everywhere already abide by considerable cybersecurity, privacy and information security requirements. Further, many have adopted the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework as their main cyber risk management tool. But financial institutions that haven’t met those standards could take the order as an impetus to do so and improve their cybersecurity posture and make improvements in the maturity of their risk management program.
Perhaps, too, federal institutions will view the order as a reason to enact zero-trust policies, procedures, and relevant technologies. The order mandates executive branch agencies to create zero-trust environments.
Putting cybersecurity best practices in place
Whether a bank, credit union, or fintech adopts a zero-trust model or not, it’s wise to consider these best practices to increase cybersecurity:
- Proactively monitor total cyber exposure. Consider partnering with a built-for-banking company that provides 24/7, real-time cybersecurity and cyber compliance and sends alerts of any anomalies.
- Stay ahead of fraud. Fraud costs U.S. financial institutions $35 billion a year. Choose a cybersecurity provider that can integrate Information Security and the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) – also known as the Anti-Money Laundering (AML) law and Fraud departments in a unified platform to prevent losses and protect account holders from the growing threat of fraud.
- Extend internal cyber teams and expertise with highly skilled and trained security experts. Not every financial institution has the resources to adequately monitor and protect their networks, particularly outside of “banking hours.” As such, many partners with a certified cybersecurity provider that monitors and investigates alerts and provides around-the-clock protection that aligns with a company’s specific escalation process. By being that “extra set of eyes,” financial institutions can focus on their core business.
- Keep up to date with compliance. Choosing a cybersecurity provider that also provides cyber compliance makes it simple and seamless for financial institutions to stay up to date, even though regulatory requirements seem to be always changing. The right provider allows financial institutions to leverage an always-on policy and control engine to make sure when compliance requirements change, organizations can comply.
- Provide ongoing cybersecurity education. An organization is only as secure as its weakest link. Therefore, employee education should be a top priority. Employees should understand how to do things like choose passwords wisely and know how to detect phishing attacks – and what to do when a questionable email comes their way.
Leveraging a trusted cybersecurity partner
The current administration has prioritized cybersecurity as a national security threat. The mandate aside, cybersecurity should be a priority for everyone and every business.
Financial organizations failing to address cybersecurity could face major damage that includes monetary loss, legal consequences, and reputational damage – leading to a loss of customers.
Keep in mind, financial institutions face more than 70 million cyber events a day. And most small- to mid-sized financial institutions simply don’t have the staff to manage the volume of incidents that can be generated by these events, particularly those occurring after hours.
An experienced cybersecurity provider can help ensure financial institutions are threat-ready and secure. The right one can consolidate data from all sources and without volume limits – providing real-time visibility into the entire network. It can eliminate false positives and prioritize events so you can address the threats that matter the most.
Because here’s the thing: There are two types of organizations – those that have suffered a data breach and those that will.
And like the price of gold that keeps rising, so, too will the cost of falling prey to a cyber breach.
About the Author
Bob Thibodeaux, Chief Information Security Officer at DefenseStorm, has more than 20 years of experience as a senior security expert and highly accomplished IT executive and engineer. Through leadership positions managing IT departments and programs, technology operations and data center operations, Bob has driven innovative process improvements, disaster recovery programs, information security strategies, and audit and compliance improvements. He has been responsible for incident response, risk management, and penetration testing for community-focused banks, credit unions, and high-tech companies across the United States. Bob is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional, Digital Forensics Examiner, and GIAC Penetration Tester. Bob holds a degree in Business and Management from the University of Maryland and is a retired USAF Senior Master Sergeant. Bob can be reached online at our company website https://www.defensestorm.com/.