What cybersecurity threats mean for financial services

New research by Trustwave SpiderLabs explores specific cyber threats the financial sector faces, due to increased non-cash payments and tech adoption

Over the years, the financial services industry has seen a steady increase in non-cash payments. The rise of the internet and mobile data usage created a global shift towards immediate payment schemes, which offer instant payments in real time. 

Understandably, these advances in internet banking, mobile applications, and real-time payments require the adoption of new technologies, however, heightened technology usage inevitably increases the industry's potential points of vulnerability. 

The increasing number of cyberattacks that are targeting financial services firms reflects the industry's shift towards technology as a solution to its challenges. To expand market share, many financial institutions rely on the power of big data, utilising sources such as social media, consumer databases, and news feeds to gain deeper insights into their customer base and attract new clientele.

Why is the financial industry being targeted?

Trustwave, a leading provider of cybersecurity and managed security services, has published an extensive research study that delves into some of the unique cybersecurity challenges confronting financial service organisations. 

The report, "2023 Financial Services Sector Threat Landscape: Trustwave Threat Intelligence Briefing and Mitigation Strategies," explores the specific threats and vulnerabilities encountered by the financial services industry and offers practical guidance and strategies to fortify their security measures.

Some of the key takeaways from the report:
  • The UK's financial services sector is valued at around £261bn, attracting cybercriminals due to its growing value.
  • The average cost of a data breach in financial services is US$5.9m.
  • The Clop threat group is responsible for 39% of ransomware incidents targeting this sector.
  • The majority of targeted financial services companies reporting breaches are from the U.S. (51%), followed by India (9%), and Russia/Mexico (7%).
  • HTML attachments make up 78% of email-borne malware attachments, with 33% of these files using obfuscation as a defence tactic.

The research conducted by Trustwave SpiderLabs serves as a valuable resource for financial services organisations, helping them understand and effectively counter the various attack groups, types of malware, and tactics used against them.

Cybersecurity challenges that are unique to the finance industry

The financial services industry is a prime target for cybercriminals due to its potential for financial gain and the storage of vast amounts of sensitive data. Some of the unique cybersecurity challenges which are being faced today include the protection of sensitive data, as the financial industry holds a huge amount of sensitive information. 

This includes names, addresses, social security numbers, bank account numbers, and credit card numbers, making the sector a high-value target. Organisations must be vigilant and keep a record of where this data is kept, as safeguarding it is impossible without a clear understanding of where it resides.

Heightened regulations can become a double-edged sword, as although they boost increased protections, they can be complex and costly to implement.

Trust as currency is another challenge to the industry, as consumers base a lot of their financial choices on trust. If this trust is compromised, due to a leak of personal data or account information, customers may decide to move their funds elsewhere. This vulnerability to trust-related issues makes consumers a prime target for cybercriminals.

Financial institutions may encounter partnership complexity as a consequence of stringent regulations when looking to build relationships with vendors or integrate tools that could enhance their security stance. There are unique requirements and barriers for potential partners that contribute to the complexity of an already intricate landscape.

Beyond their business partnerships, the financial services industry is intricately linked with various service providers and financial entities, including merchants and payment processors, which exposes it to potential supply chain and third-party risks

Prevalent Threat Actors
  • Clop
  • LockBit
  • Alphv / BlackCat
  • Black Basta
  • 8Base
  • Akira
  • Royal
Threat Tactics
  • Email-Borne Malicious Attachments (Downloaders, HTML Smuggling)
  • Phishing (IPFS, Google/Cloudflare Services, RPMSG)
  • BEC (Payroll Diversion, Contact Request)
  • Vulnerability Exploitation
  • Credential Access (Brute forcing, Abuse of Valid Accounts)
  • Malware (Infostealers, Ransomware)

“Cybersecurity is the foundation of trust in the financial services industry,” says Trustwave CISO Kory Daniels. “For financial institutions, it isn’t just about protecting data, it's about safeguarding the financial well-being and peace of mind of customers. 

“Our latest threat briefing is a valuable resource for security leaders within the financial services sector, providing a comprehensive view of the threats observed by our SpiderLabs team, along with specific mitigation strategies to help organisations protect extremely sensitive data and assets.”

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Other magazines that may be of interest - Technology Magazine | AI Magazine.

Please also check out our upcoming event - Net Zero LIVE on 6 and 7 March 2024.  

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