Cybersecurity in the financial services industry


Hello! The OctoStrategy team is happy to welcome you to our pleasant and, most importantly, safe environment. Why are we talking about safety? Because a growing number of financial institutions are migrating to the Cloud. 

Financial institutions are leading targets of cyber attacks. Banks are where the money is, and for cybercriminals, attacking banks offers multiple avenues for profit through extortion, theft, and fraud. 


Most companies don’t know about the attacks until it’s too late. According to Bitdefender’s survey, around 64% of companies aren’t aware of data breaches in their systems. 


If you're in the financial services sector, there's a very high chance that you'll eventually fall victim to a very costly cyberattack.


Prevailing against such overwhelming odds requires a cybersecurity strategy that addresses the specific cyber threats in the financial industry.


There are a few challenges concerning the topic. First, there are no standards for cloud security postures, and this can make banks doubt whether their data is properly protected when stored or processed in the cloud. Second, there are no regulatory requirements to ease the compliance challenges banks may face while migrating to the cloud.


First let's speak about the most common cyber threats to financial services. 


Threats for Financial Services




Phishing, a variant of social engineering, is a method of tricking users into divulging login credentials to gain access to an internal network.


The most common form of phishing is email phishing, where an email posing as legitimate communication is sent to victims.


Interacting with any of the infected links or attachments in phishing emails could initiate the installation of malware on the target computer system, or load a counterfeit web page that harvests login credentials.


Because phishing emails are getting harder to recognize, they're one of the most popular attack vectors for cybercrime.


It's estimated that over 90% of all successful cyberattacks start with a phishing attack and this unfortunate conversion rate is tearing up the financial industry.




Ransomware is another critical cyber risk to financial services. During a ransomware attack, cybercriminals lock victims out of their computers by encrypting them with malware. The damage is only reversed if a ransom is paid.


Ransomware attackers use multiple extortions to pressure victims into paying a ransom. The most popular being publishing greater portions of seized sensitive data on criminal forums until a ransom is paid.


Such extortion tactics are, unfortunately, very effective against financial institutions because their heavy regulations expect exemplary cyberattack and data breach resilience.


DDoS Attacks


In 2021, the financial sector experienced the highest number of Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks.


During a DDoS attack, a victim's server is overwhelmed with fake connection requests, forcing it offline.


DDoS attacks are a popular cyber threat against financial services because their attack surface is diverse, comprising banking IT infrastructures, customer accounts, payment portals, etc.



Supply Chain Attacks


During a supply chain attack, a victim is breached through a compromised third-party vendor in their supply chain.


Supply chain attacks make it possible for cyber attackers to circumvent security controls by creating avenues to sensitive resources through a target's third-party vendor.


Because, statistically, vendors don't take cybersecurity as seriously as their clients, their compromise is usually a much easier endeavor; and because third-party vendors store sensitive data for all of their clients, a single compromise could impact hundreds of companies.


Bank Drops


To obfuscate their location from authorities, cybercriminals often store stolen funds in fake bank accounts (bank drops) opened with stolen customer credentials.


Amongst cybercriminals, the collection of customer credentials required to create a bank drop is referred to as 'fullz.'


A victim's fullz data could include the following information:


  • Full Name
  • Address
  • DOB
  • Drivers License details
  • Credit Score
  • Social Security details


According to the annual security report by Akamai, 94% of observed cyber attacks in the financial sector were also facilitated by the following four attack vectors:


  • SQL Injections (SQLi)
  • Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)
  • Local FIle Inclusion (LFI)
  • OGNL Java Injection


All these treatments are the reason why cloud providers are building security in many significant ways. 


How to protect Financial Tech from Cyber Threats



A security solution that filters out potentially dangerous network traffic. This cloud-based firewall delivery method is also known as firewall-as-a-service (FWaaS). Traditional firewalls build a virtual barrier around an organization’s internal network, while cloud-based firewalls form a virtual barrier surrounding cloud platforms, infrastructure, and applications. A regularly updated firewall is capable of detecting and blocking malware injection attempts.


DDoS Protection Services

To protect data from DDoS attacks, providers are using DDoS Protection Services that offer a cloud-based defense, with the most accurate detection and fastest time to protection against today’s most dynamic and constantly evolving DDoS threats. These cloud-based solutions are typically delivered as a software as a service (SaaS) offering and scale to provide complete protection, regardless of an organization’s size


Key management systems

KMS is another new security development. These entail the management of cryptographic keys in a cryptosystem. Cryptographic algorithms are used to generate keys, which are then encrypted and decrypted to supply the needed information securely, to achieve security in a system. Cloud key management refers to a service that is hosted on the cloud and allows users to handle symmetric and asymmetric cryptographic keys just like they would on-premises. 


Third-Party Risk Management (TPRM)


A third-party risk management program will identify security vulnerabilities for all third-party cloud services to prevent supply chain raids.


Multi-Factor Authentication

An MFA policy will make it very difficult for threat actors to compromise privileged credentials.


Attack Surface Management

An attack surface management solution capable of detecting data leaks will significantly reduce the chances of a successful data breach, both internally and throughout the vendor network.


Learn TTP (Tactics, Techniques, & Procedures)

Threat actors often use similar attack strategies due to similar vulnerabilities across the industry.


Team awareness

By arming employees with knowledge of phishing scams and ransomware red flags, financial institutions can hedge their bets and reduce risks because the most common source of security breaches is human mistakes. When it comes to effective cybersecurity practices for financial institutions, security awareness training courses are crucial to a company's security.


Know vulnerabilities and monitor the threats

One of the most efficient strategies to limit companies’ attack surfaces is to address vulnerabilities. It must, however, be done on a regular basis and based on a vulnerability management workflow. Even if institutions merely run vulnerability checks on a regular basis, it’s not difficult for opportunistic attackers to gain access. Most data breaches are furtive. 


Vulnerability management can be optimized by:


  • Smart prioritization: Fix what matters most, according to the company’s unique risk tolerance
  • Rapid and effective remediation management: Curate the best fix —be it a patch, configuration, or script, get the detailed step by step instructions, and send them to the right person
  • AI-driven automation: Turn a complex fixing process into a simple step-by-step workflow, then automate away all the tedious steps
  • Remediation analytics: Get the real-time visibility into the effectiveness and outcomes of the remediation campaigns


And the last, but certainly not the least, is the implementation of a formal security framework

The framework is a set of guidelines based on a basic pattern of cyber risk reduction. These guidelines give a mechanism for the financial industry to define a fundamental strategy, assess risks, develop complete security systems, and finally respond to hacker activity.

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