Banking and financial security

In this extensive article we outline 6 highly effective banking and financial security tactics for keeping your business safe from cybercriminals.

Every year, the scope and impact of banking and financial security threats expand. Banking and financial businesses must adhere to PCI DSS rules, but many choose to take further data security measures to build consumer confidence and minimize the effects of data breaches. Credit Unions and large corporate banks alike need current and compliant security measures to protect their sales in 2019 and beyond.

Typical Banking and Financial Security Issues

The average cost of a sensitive data record in 2016 was $158, and the average cost of a breach rose to $4 million. The Identity Theft Resource Center recorded 1,093 breaches in 2016. Credit card and debit card information accounted for 13.1 percent of the exposed records during that time. Fraud, DoS, man-in-the-middle, phishing, and ransomware all represent potential security threats in the banking and financial space. The cost of a single breach is too high for any business to ignore.

PCI DSS, the security standards governing all payment card data-handling activities, provides a strong foundation for cybersecurity. It does not, however, dictate specific tools, terms, or methodologies to protect online transactions. Every business must assess vulnerability and choose the appropriate measures for their situation.

Banking and Financial Security Threats Facing Your Business

There are a wide variety of threats facing today’s financial institutions. In order to better understand the importance of banking and financial security, you’ll first need to understand the various risks you’ll need to account for.

Virtually any software you are using to run your business, even the platform or extensions themselves, will contain vulnerable weak points that savvy attackers know how to exploit. Here are a few of the most common ways to do so:

Cross-Site Scripting

Cross-site scripting involves an attack where a snippet of JavaScript is inserted into a vulnerable web page. This script appears normal to a browser and is executed as such, but it allows the attacker to do anything from access cookies and other sensitive information. This leaves the site more exposed to more serious threats such as phishing or malware.

Cross-site scripting may not directly impact your business, but the threat to your customers is very real. Sophisticated cross-site scripting attacks can deliver customer credit card information, in spite of utilizing a third-party payment processor and HTTPS encryption.

Phishing

Phishing is another banking and financial security threat where criminals pose as legitimate entities in order to access sensitive information. These attacks typically come in the form of legitimate-seeming emails, landing pages, or websites that have been designed to capture sensitive information.

The attacker poses as a legitimate organization, typically one your business is already connected with, and asks for anything from account information, login credentials, and other data that could open you up to a wide array of vulnerabilities.

These fraudulent interactions are also commonly used to install malware that can steal such information or record the keystrokes necessary to gain unauthorized access. Phishing is one of the greatest banking and financial security issues facing businesses today and one that absolutely needs to be addressed in your security strategy.

SQL Injection

SQL injection is a threat to any site that makes use of an SQL database, including major platforms like Magento. Here the attacker includes malicious SQL statements as a part of an otherwise legitimate SQL inquiry, potentially giving them access to your database(s) and allowing them access to sensitive information.

Distributed Denial of Service

Another common banking and financial security issue, distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, overwhelm servers with requests, typically from hundreds or thousands of compromised IP addresses.

These attacks result in your website being taken offline temporarily, resulting in the inability for your users to interact with the site and complete the orders they would normally be making. Typically, these attacks target larger corporate banks, but smaller credit unions are also at risk when a host or DNS provider is targeted.

Bot Attacks

A study by Distil networks determined that malicious bots account for 15.6 percent of the average banking and financial site’s traffic. Bots can be used to harm your ecommerce business in a variety of ways, such as:

  • Price Scraping – Used to identify competitor pricing, typically in order to undercut the competition.
  • Fraudulent Login – Bots are capable of using brute force attacks to guess legitimate user credentials, giving access to the bot owner or allowing them to sell it to a third party.
  • SEO Impact – Scraping bots can produce duplicate content on your website that Google penalizes, in turn hurting your rankings.
  • Fraudulent Purchases – Bots are able to guess CVV numbers for stolen credit cards, allowing their owners to make fraudulent purchases.
  • Inaccurate Analytics – With many bots being able to load JavaScript, bot activity often provides inaccurate reporting on page views, bounce rate, conversion rates, time on site, and other important metrics that impact your business decisions.

Now that we’ve identified some of the most common banking and financial security threats facing your business, let’s move onto how you can protect against them most effectively.

Six Tips to Improve Your Banking and Financial Security

Use these tips to create and optimize an banking and financial security program designed to withstand and minimize attacks in our ever-changing threat landscape:

1. Choose service providers wisely

Many financial businesses rely on outside vendors to support hosting, data storage, POS maintenance, and payment processing needs. These third-party providers add complexity to your banking and financial security strategy and play a part in mitigating or creating risks. And when it comes to your applications, any downtime puts your business in jeopardy.

Service providers that come into contact with your sensitive data must adhere to the PCI DSS 3.2 standards. Businesses should vet all providers for compliance and security before agreeing to use their payment card handling, storing, or processing services. Coordinate with your vendor to implement processes for detection, prevention, and failure alerts, including firewalls, anti-virus systems, advanced encryption, two-factor authentication, physical and logical access controls, auditing mechanisms, and segmentation controls.

Look for a hosting provider that meets the following criteria:

  • Closed-circuit TV monitored 24/7/365 with video archiving
  • Performs regular backups
  • Maintains comprehensive logs
  • Offers network monitoring
  • 24×7 manned Network Operations Center with engineering staff performing hourly walk-arounds
  • Demonstrates their dedication to compliance and security through their credentials—PCI compliance audits, SSAE18 Type II, SOC 1, and SOC 2 to name a few
2. Prioritize PCI compliance and security

PCI compliance governs the minimum requirements for network and wireless security. It only takes one vulnerability for your website or network to be compromised.

“Breached sites are constantly found running a three-year-old version of PHP… Patch your systems. Patch everything immediately—literally the day they release a new version,” says Kyle Adams, chief software architect for Junos WebApp Secure at Juniper Networks. Remember that your systems and applications should be audited and tested regularly as part of your security policy.

Many banking and financial security problems have one root cause: Attackers gain access to raw credit card information from your merchant systems. Tokenization eliminates the need to store your non-essential customer payment information directly, therefore reducing risks.

If you do not understand your responsibilities or do not want the stress of keeping up with the latest in banking and financial security technology, work with a PCI compliance and security consultant who can help. Employee training, testing/monitoring, and policy development are equally important and compliment the technology you implement.

3. Train employees

Inside data access plays a role in approximately 60 percent of cyberattacks. Some involve malicious intent, but others suggest ignorance. Employees who do not recognize the red flags of a phishing attempt or spoofing attack will not take steps to avoid them and report the vulnerability.

Consider cybersecurity a mandatory part of employee orientation and ongoing training requirements. Password creation, access control, recognizing the signs of an attack, and remediation practices can all strengthen your business’ banking and financial security prevention and response plans.

4. Maintain SSL certificates

“It can be a leap of faith for customers to trust that their financial institution’s site is safe, particularly when web-based attacks increased by 30 percent last year. So, it’s important to use SSL certificates to authenticate the identity of your business and encrypt the data in transit,” says Rick Andrews, technical director, Trust Services, Symantec.

SSL authentication protects both cardholders and banking and financial businesses from fraud. The certificate uses encryption protocols to protect transactions as they travel along the network. The behind-the-scenes process ensures cardholder data matches information on file with a card provider and protects a valid cardholder from sending money to cybercriminals attempting to gain access to the banking and financial site.

5. Monitor banking and financial activities

Look for inconsistencies in financial transactions on a routine basis. IP address changes and anonymous email account purchases may constitute red flags for fraud. Investigate and confirm any suspicious purchases to protect your business from malicious scams.

You will also want to use access control policies to minimize the number of employees who come into contact with financial information. Log management and access control rules within the system will ensure a limited number of individuals can view and/or manipulate sensitive data.

6. Conduct vulnerability and penetration testing

Continually assess systems for endpoint vulnerabilities, network weaknesses, and suboptimal banking and financial security solutions. Use ongoing assessments to strengthen hosting, networking, and data storage arrangements over time.

Work with an internal team or security contractor to conduct simulated attacks on business systems. These penetration attacks often reveal missed vulnerabilities and enable companies to optimize patch management and log management systems. Every addressed vulnerability reduces a criminal’s ability to attack your business.

Online banking offers financial businesses a way to quickly and automatically process transactions and update services. Risks come along with the benefits of this increasingly popular banking method. Take the time to manage the risks to prevent and minimize damage during an attack with robust and ongoing banking and financial security practices. Cybersecurity is not a one-time fix. Shielding small and large organizations from both pointed attacks and crimes of convenience requires vigilance and persistence.

Boost Your Banking and Financial Security with LightEdge’s Help

As a top-tier colocation services provider, we provide a high level of availability and reliability through secure, certified data centers and dedicated staff onsite. Our customized and scalable services give you the control, whether you need a colocation rack, cage, or custom suite now or in the future.

Tracking and monitoring all access to network resources and cardholder data, including the regular testing of controls, systems, and processes is critical. Our colocation centers have a plan in place that tracks and monitors all access to network resources and cardholder data.

Log files, system traces or any tool enabling the tracking of access to sensitive data is critical in preventing, detecting, or minimizing a data breach. The availability of logs enables tracking, alerting, and analysis when an intrusion occurs. LightEdge also regularly tests our security systems and processes

LightEdge’s highly-trained compliance and security experts take the guesswork out of keeping your business protected. Trust our expertise to ensure you are covered through our security and compliance services, including risk management, information security, audit preparedness, and support.

Our LightEdge facilities are more advanced than traditional data centers. We have created true Hybrid Solution Centers designed to offer a complete portfolio of high speed, secure, redundant, local cloud services and managed gateways to public clouds through our hardened facilities.

Customers turn to LightEdge to reduce risk of non-compliance, scale security, and for the predictably and cost-effectiveness. LightEdge provides customers with an extended team of experienced engineers and helps to focus resources on agility and differentiation. Are you curious how your current provider stacks up? No two businesses are the same. At LightEdge, we work with you to find the right mix of control, security, and cost for your Cloud Hosting and IT service needs. Contact us today for your free security assessment.


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director of compliance
Michael Hannan

Michael has eleven years of information systems, IT, consulting, and compliance experience. His expertise includes identifying and implementing general IT systems, applications, and business controls in conjunction with external compliance audits.

Michael is currently the Director of Compliance at LightEdge, helping to establish, maintain and, enforce the information security policies and procedures that keep LightEdge customers protected at all times.