Hackers routinely target the financial industry, making cybersecurity an unavoidable top priority. According to statistics published by Bricata, all financial services firms are 300 times more likely to experience a cyberattack, but organizations in the insurance sector are most vulnerable.
Hackers will do just about anything to obtain financial data so they can steal identities and run their schemes. For instance, cybercriminals often use phishing schemes and ransomware attacks to extort money from their victims.
Don’t think your organization is too small for hackers
No organization is too small to be a target. In fact, hackers prefer targeting small businesses because they know most have weak cybersecurity.
You’ve spent plenty of time and effort building your business. In addition to finding a strong team, you’ve gone through rigorous protocols to obtain your own professional certifications like CMA and CPA designations. It’s worth protecting what you’ve built.
If you’re a financial services professional, here’s what you can do to protect against common (and not-so-common) cyber threats.
Understand the common types of attacks
First, understand what you’re potentially up against. Hackers tend to stick with the following types of attacks:
- Ransomware. Ransomware is the definition of extortion. In a ransomware attack, hackers encrypt all the data on a computer and demand a ransom to decrypt the data. The demand can be anywhere from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. If you pay it, there’s no guarantee your data will be decrypted.
- Phishing. Phishing attacks are the oldest scam in the book, but are unfortunately still common. A phishing scheme occurs when a hacker “fishes” for information, usually through email. For example, one of your employees might get an email that looks like it’s from you, asking for login credentials.
- Malware. Malware causes all kinds of problems. Some hackers don’t want to steal data, but enjoy destroying other people’s data for fun. An example of one of the worst instances of malware was the Bricker Bot malware that emerged back in 2017. This piece of malware exploited security flaws in IoT device hardware and modified the firmware to render the device permanently useless.
- Exploiting vulnerabilities. Software requires regular updates as vulnerabilities are patched and bugs are fixed. Sometimes they use those vulnerabilities to steal data, but sometimes they just want to quietly use your server’s resources to exploit other victims.
For example, if you’re using WordPress to run your website and you don’t keep your plugins updated, hackers can exploit known vulnerabilities to take over your web server. You may not know your site has been exploited until your webhost shuts you down for hosting a phishing scheme. Hackers don’t host their emails used in their phishing schemes – they hijack an unsuspecting victim’s web server.
Take high-level measures to block and prevent cyberattacks
Cyberthreats lurk around every corner. You can’t always see what’s coming, but automated threat detection software can. Using automated threat detection software stops a majority of cyber threats before they become a problem. However, you also need strong policies.
You need an IT security policy that gets enforced
A strong IT security policy is worthless unless enforced. Once you create your policy, make sure your employees aren’t putting the company at risk. For example:
- Prohibit using unsecured Wi-Fi to access company networks and accounts.
- Require employees to use a VPN when outside of the office, even on their home network. If their friends, family, or neighbors have access to their home network, your company network is at risk.
- Install software that verifies access by device rather than only by login credentials.
- Activate two-factor authentication and require this feature for every login to company accounts.
Regardless of your specific policies, they must be enforced to be effective. However, there’s one more thing you should be aware of. Technology is rapidly advancing, which can make it hard to detect sophisticated attacks.
Sophisticated technology poses a serious threat to financial organizations
Cybercriminals are using the same tricks, but it’s getting harder to detect some attacks. For example, deepfakes pose a serious threat that can make it hard to verify information without meeting in person. Other attacks are being launched against government entities and those effects can trickle down to your business.
Encryption and offline backups are your best defense
Next to automated threat detection and strong policies, you need end-to-end encryption and offline backups to mitigate the damage of a cyberattack. When encrypted data gets stolen, it can’t be read, and having full offline backups allows you to ignore ransomware demands and simply restore your data from scratch. It’s not the only part of an IT security solution, but it’s something you can start with today.