Tag: DNS Protect

06 Dec 2021
How Layered Security Can Address Growing Cyberthreats

How Layered Security Can Address Growing Cyberthreats

How Layered Security Can Address Growing Cyberthreats

With the increasing complexity of cyberattacks, financial institutions need to implement more effective—and comprehensive—security measures. They need a variety of elements to create a layered approach to secure their data, infrastructure, and other resources from potential cyberthreats.

Many organizations rely on a castle-and-moat network security model where everyone inside the network is trusted by default. (Think of the network as the castle and the network perimeter as the moat.) No one outside the network is able to access data on the inside, but everyone inside the network can. However, security gaps may still exist in this model and others. The best approach to compensate for gaps is to surround the network with layers of security.

The basic “table stakes” for a layered security approach include a perimeter firewall with content filtering, email threat filters, an endpoint malware solution, and a robust patch management process. Banks and credit unions could also invest in additional and more sophisticated layers but each one will have associated acquisition and management costs, along with ongoing maintenance. So, it’s prudent for institutions to invest only in the number of layers/solutions they can competently manage.

Key Concerns

Today the top IT security concern for many organizations is ransomware. Due to the proactive measures many financial institutions have taken, the banking industry has fewer security breaches than health care and some other industries thus far. However, when a breach does happen to a financial institution, the impact is more costly than breaches occurring in other industries.

Four-Layer Security Formula

With these concerns in mind, here’s a four-layer “recipe” organizations can employ to improve their security posture:

  • Training and Testing: Using email phishing tests can serve as a good foundation for minimizing BEC and other social engineering threats.
  • Network Design: Institutions should refresh older networks to segment their components into different zones. It’s no longer sufficient to have servers, workstations, and printers sitting in one IP space together.
  • Domain Name System (DNS) filtering: DNS filtering prevents potentially damaging traffic from ever reaching the network. Because it proactively blocks threats, this makes it one of the most effective and affordable security layers institutions can apply.
  • Endpoint Protection: Institutions should have this type of protection on each of their endpoints, and the best endpoint protection tools have built-in ransomware solutions.

Other Important Considerations

It’s important to back up data regularly and ensure that those backups are well beyond the reach of ransomware and other threats. (Backups done to a local server that’s on-site and are still on the network may be susceptible to ransomware.) One way to address this issue is to have immutable backups, which are backup files that can’t be altered in any way and can deploy to production servers immediately in case of ransomware attacks or other data loss. Another option is to send backups to a cloud solution like Microsoft Azure Storage, which is affordable and easy to integrate because there are no servers to manage.

Another crucial element in security is Transport Layer Security/Secure Sockets Layer (TLS/SSL) encryption protocol, which can be somewhat of a double-edged sword. About 80 percent of website traffic is encrypted to protect it from unauthorized users during transmission. Traditional firewalls don’t have the ability to scrutinize traffic against a content filtering engine, which means savvy hackers can hide ransomware and other dangerous content inside. But firewalls with advanced features are capable of TLS/SSL inspection; they can decrypt content, analyze it for threats, and then re-encrypt the traffic before entering or leaving the network.

There’s an array of security solutions that institutions can implement to establish layered protection against cyber threats. For more insights about this topic, listen to our webinar on “Cyber Threats, Why You Need a Layered Approach.”

02 Apr 2021
Is Cybersecurity Your Weakest Link

Is Cybersecurity Your Weakest Link?

Is Cybersecurity Your Weakest Link

Is Cybersecurity Your Weakest Link?

The financial landscape has changed drastically in the last 20 years, one of the most notable changes being the variety of financial services now being offered online. Although the wide-spread use of internet has made it possible to receive financial guidance from anywhere in the world, it has also created an environment where sensitive information and data could potentially be compromised by cybercriminals.

Today, professional hackers are spending more time and money than ever before to gain access to personal information for both monetary gain and “professional” recognition. The sensitive information that the financial services industry has access to continues to make them a prime target for hackers and other cybercriminals. Attacks can range from malware threats, DDOS attacks, phishing attempts and data breaches – all of which bad actors can use to commit fraud themselves or sell to a third-party.

Importance of Being Secure


Cybercrime continues to be a growing problem for banks and credit unions across the country. The impact of a cybercrime can be very costly for a financial institution, both financially and from a reputational standpoint. The main risks include theft or unauthorized access to sensitive customer information along with the disruption of normal business operations.

In addition, as the number of security threats continues to increase in the financial services industry, regulators are taking a closer look at financial institutions’ policies and procedures to ensure that they can effectively safeguard confidential and non-public information. As an example, the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council’s (FFIEC) Cybersecurity Assessment Tool (CAT) is designed to ensure financial institutions are prepared in the event of a cybersecurity attack. The FFIEC CAT is now the guide regulators are using to examine institutions and determine their level of cybersecurity preparedness.

Some of the most common security threats financial institutions face today include:

Malware and Ransomware


Ransomware has established itself as one of the leading cyber threats for many organizations, but especially financial institutions. Using ransomware technologies, hackers can gain complete access and control over legitimate websites, often by encrypting data or programs, and extort ransom payments from victims in exchange for restoring access to the individual or business. Malicious software, or “malware”, is no longer characterized by simple aggravating popups and sluggish computer performance, but rather the encryption of all data on a machine, rendering it unusable.

Internet of Things (IoT) Attacks


Unsecured Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as DVRs, home routers, printers and IP cameras are vulnerable to attack since they are not required to have the same level of security as computers. To breach a financial institution, attackers will target insecure devices to create a pathway to other systems. Unsecure IoT devices are also used to launch distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDoS) against institutions. These DDoS attacks prevent legitimate users from accessing computer systems, devices or other online resources. The perpetrator floods the victim’s machine or network with false requests from various sources to overload the system and prevent legitimate access. A well-executed attack can interrupt a host of banking services including website access, ATM networks, and online banking platforms, in addition to internal systems and functions.

Phishing Scams


Phishing scams that specifically target financial institutions’ employees, attempting to obtain sensitive information such as usernames and passwords, have become increasingly common within the last few years. The goal of phishing is to direct employees to a fraudulent website where they are asked to share login credentials and other personal information. The information that employees are tricked into providing then allow for cybercriminals to read a bank or credit union’s critical information, hack into the employee’s bank and social media accounts, send emails on an employees’ behalf, and gain access to internal documents and customer financial information.

Lack of Third-Party Vendor Security


While a financial institution might have the right security systems and policies in place to protect itself and its customers from a cyber-attack, its third-party providers may not have the same level of security and diligence. This creates a major vulnerability for the financial institution. Without a proactive approach to vendor management, financial institutions are opening themselves up to increased levels of risk that can have a negative impact on the institution’s financial standing, compliance posture and overall ability to serve its customers. Federal regulators have issued guidelines to help institutions better understand and manage the risks associated with outsourcing a bank activity to a service provider. The FFIEC IT Examination Handbook was revised to help guide banks to properly establish and maintain effective vendor and third-party management programs.

Insider Threats


Often, all it takes is a disgruntled employee or ex-employee to release valuable security information and compromise system and data security. Additionally, cybercriminals are increasingly realizing success through bribery as a means to entice bank employees to give up their login credentials or other security information, allowing direct access to internal systems.

Lack of Employee Training and Security Expertise


The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly brought its share of challenges to the financial sector of business, including increased network vulnerability and internal threats as employees transitioned to a remote work environment. These changes required cybersecurity personnel to change their online security baseline and continuously adapt to the changing IT security landscape. With the increased popularity of remote work, company IT staff are encouraging employees to take charge of their own online security through testing and training. The training includes topics like the importance of password security and multi-factor authentication and helps employees understand their roles and responsibilities in protecting against security threats. Until this learning gap is resolved, financial institutions will continue to struggle to efficiently manage cybersecurity threats.

Combating Security Threats and Ensuring Institution Security


While cybersecurity has become a major point of discussion among professionals within the financial industry, the truth is that many financial institutions are too complacent when it comes to protecting themselves. With hackers using advanced technology, the “bare minimum protection” is no longer enough to keep sensitive information safe. To adequately protect against security threats, financial institutions must ensure that every device on the network has up-to-date antivirus software, adequate firewall protections and that all patches are up-to-date as a minimum requirement. In addition, financial institutions should also employ a layered security strategy, from the end-user to the internet to establish a secure IT environment. Adding preventive, detective and responsive layers to IT security strategy will help strengthen an institution’s approach and build an effective security foundation.

A uniquely tailored layered security approach enables financial institutions to:

  • Monitor antivirus for servers, workstations, and off-site laptops
  • Use services that evaluate site lookups to avoid exposure to compromised websites
  • Scan the network for vulnerabilities and detect unusual activity against hackers and rogue employees
  • Block access to all external ports while also monitoring the access of various machines
  • Meet government regulations and requirements
  • Counter extortion threats by preventing a hacker from holding your customer’s personal data for ransom with special customized software for stopping ransomware
  • Patch machines, encrypt laptops, and install alerts on new devices plugged into the network

The security landscape is constantly evolving, and it is imperative to have a solid security plan in place that accounts for this evolution. It should be a fluid document that is frequently reviewed, updated and that specifically outlines administrative, technical, and physical controls that mitigate evolving risks. It is also important to test the full plan on a regular basis to ensure all procedures can be executed successfully and verify that all regulatory requirements are met.

Managing Security Needs


Many community banks and credit unions find that managing the security needs of their organization can be a time-consuming and challenging task. To help augment the security responsibilities, these institutions are turning to financial industry-specific IT and security service providers to act as an extension of their organization, provide timely support, and help the financial institution successfully design and execute a comprehensive security strategy. The right solution provider couples security measures with an understanding of and support for the unique security and compliance demands of the financial industry.

At Safe Systems, we believe that proactively protecting customer data will always be more cost effective than falling victim to malicious activity. To that end, we have the unique expertise to ensure that financial institutions employ the right combination of both broad and specific security products to create an ecosystem of protection. Safe Systems helps secure an organization’s endpoints, devices, and users by assessing vulnerabilities, detecting unwanted network activity, safeguarding against data loss, and preventing known threats while staying ahead of developing ones.

24 Jan 2019
What Community Financial Institutions Should Look for in a Managed Services Provider

What Community Financial Institutions Should Look for in a Managed Services Provider

What Community Financial Institutions Should Look for in a Managed Services Provider

The majority of banks and credit unions rely on managed services providers to help them improve efficiencies in their organization, meet mounting regulatory compliance requirements, and provide the competitive products and services their customers and members expect.

However, selecting the right managed services provider can be challenging. We have highlighted some key qualities that community banks and credit unions should look for when choosing trusted partners.

A managed services provider should have a true understanding of the following areas:

The community banking and credit union industries

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A managed services provider must truly understand the “ins and outs” of operating a community bank or credit union. This includes recognizing the industry trends, realizing the importance of priorities, such as customer- and/or member-service related touch points, and understanding regulatory and compliance issues. Not knowing how a community financial institution operates is a hindrance that can prohibit the provider from effectively meeting the demands of the institution and makes it unlikely that it will be in a position to offer informed recommendations on improvements and solutions to existing issues.

Financial services technology

Technology is ever-changing and it is nearly impossible for any one person to successfully keep up with all of the advancements. To provide the technological solutions and services that a community bank or credit union requires, a managed services provider should understand the technical requirements of all banking technology solutions, starting with the core platform. Since many applications have to work with — and integrate into — the core platform, it is impossible to design an efficient and comprehensive network without first an understanding of core platforms and banking technology.

Regulatory compliance requirements

The evolving world of financial regulatory compliance governs every aspect of your IT network and that includes what hardware and software you choose to deploy. In today’s banking environment, vendors must be able to make recommendations on how to manage hardware and software to meet regulatory expectations, meet regulatory expectations such as, verifying all patches, ensuring security measures are up to date, and maintaining access to critical services during a disaster.

Working with the wrong managed services provider can be time-consuming, cumbersome, and even stressful. However, working with a provider who offers the desired services and who truly understands your industry can help guide the institution in today’s challenging financial environment. A good partnership is key to ensuring your organization remains competitive and profitable for years to come.

06 Dec 2017
2017 Dec What Community Banks and Credit Unions Should Budget for in 2018

What Community Banks and Credit Unions Should Budget for in 2018

2017 Dec What Community Banks and Credit Unions Should Budget for in 2018

Many financial institutions are entering (or are already within) their 2018 budget season. While creating a budget is essential in helping you execute your strategy and plan for the future, any shortcomings, such as the ability to respond to changes in regulation or things you didn’t adequately plan for, can quickly derail your plans and force you to make critical trade-offs. As community banks and credit unions dive into this process, it is important to evaluate all areas and think outside the box on key IT, security and compliance budget items that are often overlooked. Since we work with more than 600 financial institutions just like yours, we are constantly researching what’s coming next, both from technology and compliance viewpoints and offer some points for consideration in your budgeting for 2018.

2017 started with several ransomware incidents and culminated mid-year with one of the largest breaches ever – directly impacting more than half of the adults in the United States– with the Equifax breach. Expect “Cybersecurity” and “Information Security” to be buzz words going forward for the next few years. No business wants to have a breach and no regulatory agency wants to sign off on a business’ processes only to have them be breached. Look for the regulatory agencies to start looking out for number one by putting pressure on you, the financial institution, to step up your cybersecurity efforts.

Per some studies, up to 90% of cybersecurity spending is directed towards securing the network, yet 72% of all breaches happen from the application level. This disconnect indicates that, while the money spent may prove effective on stopping perimeter exposure, it has likely left an unexpected weakness in overall protection.

Expect cybersecurity and added layers to be a focus over the next few years. The layers are often moving from the perimeter to the device level. Considering most breaches go unnoticed for 100-200 days, expect an emphasis on forensics and monitoring in the coming year(s) as well.

As you are setting budgets for 2018, here are some key line items for consideration:

  1. Malware/Ransomware Layers: $1,500 – $5,000
  2. Remember that 2016 and early 2017 were very heavy in malware, especially ransomware. While this seemed to cool off toward the end of 2017, experts expect this to be a major issue for the foreseeable future. The price will depend on the layers you select and how many you choose to add. You should really consider taking a more aggressive step in your fight against malware this year. If 2016 and 2017 taught us anything, it is that malware, and specifically ransomware, is back with a vengeance. More legitimate websites are unknowingly infected with malware and more emails are getting through with malware than in years past.

    Malware has also evolved into a more aggressive threat. It’s no longer characterized by simple aggravating popups and sluggish computers, but is now encrypting all of the data on your machine, rendering it unusable. It’s gathering credentials of users, or even sometimes gathering documents and information on the machines themselves. Safe Systems has had more calls from both customers and non-customers about aggressive malware in 2016 than in years past and that trend looks to continue.

    Financial institutions should evaluate their current layers, their effectiveness, and what they can do to enhance their cybersecurity posture. This may mean more/different end user training, DNS Filtering, or actual implementation of anti-ransomware toolsets. Whatever course you choose, know that the battle to protect your data is real, and it is as important as ever.

  3. Cybersecurity Policy and Incident Response Testing: $4,000 – $7,500
  4. Cybersecurity preparedness does not start or end with the Cybersecurity Assessment Tool (CAT), but it does play a role. Examiners will be looking at this for at least acknowledgement that you understand cybersecurity is a real issue and you are working on addressing it. We still speak with institutions who have done little to nothing with the CAT. With the current risk environment constantly escalating, regulators are unlikely to continue to let this slide.

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  5. Honey Pots: $2,500+
  6. A security professional at a major security conference earlier this year referenced baiting and monitoring for criminal activity as one of the most effective measures to know if you have been compromised. Often referred to as “honey pots,” this refers to decoys set up to look interesting to anyone “snooping” around. With a solid solution in place, your institution could know of an intruder within minutes instead of the estimated 100-200 days noted above. If Target or Equifax had used similar solutions, they would likely have not been compromised or damaged to the extent that they were.

  7. Robust Vendor Management Solution: $2,500 – $5,000
  8. With financial institutions delivering more products via third-party vendors than ever before, regulators are looking for a thorough vendor management program that ensures that all vendors are being reviewed regularly. For the average community bank, the process to properly perform vendor due diligence and vendor management has become too cumbersome. An automated solution provides a more efficient, cost effective way to address this. This also ties into the cybersecurity preparedness. As data has moved outside the institution, it’s more important than ever to make sure your vendors are keeping your data safe.

  9. New and Replacement Technology: $500 – $10,000
  10. Be sure that all products your vendors are “sun setting” are budgeted to be updated or replaced. Also, ensure that key applications and settings are updated to the latest best practices, including:

    • Expired in 2017 and should be replaced or upgraded
      • Windows Vista
      • Symantec Endpoint 10.x
      • Microsoft Office and Exchange 2007
      • Backup Exec 2015
      • Adobe Acrobat XI
    • Expires in 2018 and should be replaced or upgraded
      • ESXi/vCenter 5.5 expires 9/19/2018

  11. Training: $500 – $1,500
  12. Information security is an issue that not only affects your institution, its employees and Board of Directors, but also extends to your customers. In fact, FFIEC guidelines now expect you to enhance the training programs you may already have in place. This is an area where many institutions could make a lot of improvement for the fewest dollars. Employees, via intent or mistake, are often the starting points for the breaches many institutions face. A single employee has been blamed for much of what happened in the Equifax breach. Make sure your employees and customers have access to the appropriate training commiserate with their needs. Information security knowledge and understanding affects all employees at some level, so ensure that your budget includes the appropriate training for each type of employee.

  13. Vendor and User Conferences: $1,000 – $1,800
  14. It is important to stay up to date with the latest features and industry changes. An effective way to achieve this is to attend a vendor conference or user group event. Make sure to budget for key vendor conferences as an educational and vendor management function.

Some careful forethought in the budgeting process today can prevent you from having to make difficult decisions and trade-offs next year. With more than 20 years of service in the financial industry, working with more than 600 institutions, and actively managing 20,000+ devices, Safe Systems has gained a unique perspective on what is important to financial institutions and to the regulators that oversee them. We encourage you to leverage our expertise as you develop your strategic plans and budgets for the coming year.

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