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How can the financial services industry protect their data from increasingly sophisticated cyber-attacks?

Investment into robust Cyber Security measures needs to be a critical concern for all financial services organisations.  For obvious reasons, financial firms have always been a prime target for cyber criminals. Unfortunatley, due to the sensitive nature of the information they process, banks are faced with a barrage of malicious attacks on a daily basis. Although banks are fully aware that a successful breach could result in loss of critical data, customer confidence or fines from the ICO, many still struggle to effectively prevent and respond to these cyber breaches.

When implementing a security strategy, it is important to remember that the cyber threat landscape is not static and unmoving- it constantly changes at an alarming rate. As we speak hundreds of ‘zero-day’ threats will be maliciously distributed online. In a desperate attempt to find harmful security holes, banks are bombarded with cyber-attacks from all angles. As this relentless growth of cybercrime is showing no signs of slowing down, the financial services industry needs to have a proactive approach to protecting their systems from advanced cyber threats.

One of the key challenges for financial services organisations is the growing threat of third-party risk. Due to the complexity of modern-day supply chains, banks now regularly work with numerous third-party companies and service providers. While these collaborations are essential for strategic growth and the daily running of business, it also causes dangerous security ‘blind spots’. Without visibility into the security of these companies or the ability to measure and report on cyber risk, banks become an easy target for unrelenting cyber criminals.


Unsurprisingly, these bad actors will stop at nothing for the ‘big win’. If they successfully infiltrate a high-profile bank… they have literally hit the jackpot!
But what are the most common attacks which banks face?

    • DDos attacks-

      Bots are the main tools for conducting DDoS attacks. Although this type of breach does not directly infect devices or steal financial data, it can cause financial loss by slowing down systems/ sites. This type of cyber-attack can be highly damaging to banks as it prevents their customers accessing online accounts and applications which consequently affects their customer trust.

    • Phishing-

      In most instances, phishing attacks are not targeting the workforce at banks but instead their clients and customers. Sophisticated phishing attacks can seamlessly impersonate your bank in an attempt to steal sensitive information and gain access to your funds. Due to lack of cyber awareness of many individuals, this can be an easy way of entry for hackers.

    • Banking malware-

      Cyber criminals use banking malware to steal sensitive financial information, pin numbers and even funds from customer accounts. In recent years, there has been a noticeable increase of banking malware attacks, as it is readily available to purchase on the dark web. In particular, there has been a huge surge of malware attacks targeting mobile banking applications. This often involves using key-loggers or fake apps to capture financial credentials. A recent report by Checkpoint revealed there has been a 50% increase since 2018.

    • Exploitation of vulnerabilities-

      Before going into battleevery great warrior must understand where their opponents ‘Achilles heel’ is. Often, cyber criminals spend weeks or months profiling financial organisations to understand exactly where their weak spots are. By identifying these vulnerabilities in their systems, they can look for ways to illicitly enter their corporate network. Typically, hackers search for privileged access accounts which can transfer critical information… which will ultimately reap financial rewards!

The statistics:

The below statistics were derived from a recent study conducted by Clearswift. They surveyed senior business decision makers at financial organisations within the UK. Shockingly (but unsurprisingly to most security professionals), the data revealed that 43% of the incidents last year were caused by human error or employees failing to follow corporate security protocols.

Clearswift financial services cyber breaches survey findings:
  • 70% of financial companies suffered a cyber-attack in the past year.
  • A whopping 43% of security breaches within the financial sector are a result of employees not following company data protection policies and procedures.
  • Other key causes of security incidents include introduction of malware and viruses via 3rd party devices (32%), file and image downloads (25%) and employees sharing data with unintended recipients (24%).
  • According to this study, financial organisations rank data loss prevention technology as number 1 area of investment, ahead of database security and regulatory compliance.
What should the financial services industry be doing to overcome cyber challenges?

Financial services organisations must have advanced controls which allow them to prevent, detect, respond and report on cyber breaches in real time. However, this can be a challenge for many banks as their security controls and data sources are not fed into a centrally managed interface. Unfortunately, having disparate technologies which are unable to ‘talk to each other’ leads to security blind spots.

But how can you connect these important systems so that you can have full visibility into your technology infrastructure?

By investing in an advanced SIEM solution like Splunk, banks can have full visibility into distributed attacks across their entire ecosystem. Splunk is a powerful tool which analyses ‘big data’, it can seamlessly integrate with any application which generates data logs. This not only empowers banks to quickly respond to cyber breaches, it also gives invaluable insight into operational intelligence so they can hone business processes.


Splunk is a highly intuitive tool which can detect anomalies in your data so that you can prevent cybercrimes in real time. It also allows you to seamlessly streamline fraud analysis and improve risk assessment management.

Splunk enables banks to integrate data from multiple sources into a central platform, this includes:

  • Internet banking access logs
  • Account information
  • Phone call records
  • Cash transaction information
  • Third party cloud application data
  • Services data onto a central platform.

Splunk software then automatically gathers, searches, monitors, reports and analyses this data to identify important correlations or irregularity’s.


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