The financial services industry has been under tremendous strain in recent years due to increasing security threats, hybrid working, economic uncertainties, geopolitical conflicts, and regulatory compliance mandates. Despite having advanced cyber defense measures in place, financial organizations remain prime targets for cybercriminals and nation-state attackers.
Security issues in this industry are exacerbated by highly distributed infrastructures, valuable assets, exploitable IoT devices, and the human element, which remains the weakest link in security defenses. To stay ahead of attackers, the industry should take a proactive approach to future-proofing and digital transformation. This requires collective action, international collaboration, cross-industry cooperation, and policy intervention. Everyone providing financial services, including digital banking and payment services, must look ahead to future trends and prepare to provide data protection in a world of growing threats.
Many successful cyber-attacks on financial services organizations are caused by user error. They usually start with a phishing attack that provides initial access to an organization, allowing for larger-scale ransomware or malware attacks.
Criminals only need to find one person, preferably with high privileges, who use weak passwords or can be tricked into giving away information. Once they have this initial access, they can carry out ransomware, malware, and other attacks that lead to breaches and failed audits. In fact, everyone in your Fintech organization should be aware of the basic threats and how to set up a VPN for Android or iPhone. Also, data loss from breaches remains a problem due to low encryption rates and overly complicated key management practices, which often contradict each other.
Besides the current threat landscape and ongoing security challenges, emerging technologies like AI, Blockchain, Quantum, and 5G have the potential to reshape the field of cybersecurity in the financial services industry.
For instance, a single powerful quantum computer could potentially break the current public key encryption algorithms (cryptography) that are widely used by financial institutions today. This poses a risk to numerous aspects, ranging from client data to secure websites and software used for customer interactions. However, it is important to note that executing such an attack would still be highly challenging even for the most accomplished cybercriminal.
Financial institutions are obligated to retain certain data for decades, creating a ticking time bomb as quantum technology continues to advance. Although these threats may seem distant, it is crucial for organizations to develop a robust quantum strategy now in order to prepare for future challenges. One of the keys to security is a VPN. They also use advanced technologies for protection and are actively updated. Of course, just a VPN download for Chrome is not enough, but it should be part of your security system.
The current state of affairs
According to a study conducted by the Aite-Novarica Group on behalf of Mastercard, 221 InfoSec executives from large and midsize financial institutions, as well as large and midsize merchants, were surveyed across eight countries in five geographical regions. These countries include the U.S., the U.K., Germany, Brazil, Australia, India, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. The study provides valuable insights into the greatest challenges faced in enterprise defense, the technology trends that are causing the most concern, budget constraints, and top investments for 2023.
Based on the survey, it has been found that 88% of executives reported an increase in their cybersecurity budget for 2023 and 2024 compared to the previous year. The areas where external support is most required include artificial intelligence, defense against future attacks, identity protection, and API security. The executives expressed their highest concerns about nonhuman actors or bots, the Internet of Things (IoT), and the emerging digital workforce. The key investment areas in cybersecurity for 2023 will be focused on reinforcing malware and ransomware defenses, enhancing infrastructure security, securing cloud systems, and fortifying API security.
A zero-trust approach
Financial services organizations usually have widely distributed infrastructures that include retail storefronts, IoT devices, and a hybrid workforce that can work from anywhere. Implementing zero trust principles can be a critical strategy to ensure that only necessary access to valuable data and assets is granted. Not surprisingly, financial services organizations with a formal Zero Trust strategy are less likely to experience security breaches.
The evolution from standalone devices like ATM machines and kiosks, which had their own dedicated connections, to IoT, has significantly expanded the size, complexity, and flexibility of the underlying networks, thus increasing the potential attack surface. Zero trust security measures tend to be well-suited for these kinds of environments.
As organizations move ahead, they will require visibility not only across their infrastructure but also throughout the entire organization. Establishing a shared understanding is crucial for effectively prioritizing and implementing security projects. When security teams and key business areas are aligned, they can collaboratively tackle future challenges in a more effective and efficient manner.