Tag: IT Security

01 Aug 2018
Cybercriminals Do Not Go on Vacation

Cybercriminals Don’t Go on Vacation! 3 Key Steps to Maintain Security During Summer Months

Cybercriminals Do Not Go on Vacation

Summer is in full swing, and many employees are heading out of the office for their annual summer vacations. However, while employees are taking advantage of the summer months, so are cybercriminals! Cybersecurity attacks continue to increase and are becoming more sophisticated with recent attacks involving extortion, destructive malware, and compromised credentials. An attack on a financial institution resulting in the loss of data can have a devastating effect on the organization’s revenue and reputation. In addition, the amount of time and money needed to resolve these attacks can be significant.

While the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) actually encourages mandatory vacation time for bank employees of all levels, this can be a challenging time for many community institutions that have a small staff and rely on key individuals to ensure their institution is adequately protected. So, what are some key steps financial institutions can take to ensure their organization is protected when key personnel take time off?

  1. Have a Solid Layered Security Program
  2. Financial institutions should employ a strategy that places many uniquely tailored layers throughout the network. By employing multiple controls, security layers ensure that gaps or weaknesses in one control, or layer of controls, are compensated for by others. This includes scanning your network for threats on a regular basis and ensuring all patches are up to date. Implementing a layered approach to security enables institutions to catch security incidents before they become damaging. The right balance of security layers allows staff to automate security tasks and takes the pressure off one individual managing the entire security program.

  3. Create a Strong Security Culture and Adequately Train Staff
  4. An important part of combatting cyber attacks is ensuring that all bank and credit union employees are comfortable highlighting security-related issues and will follow the appropriate steps to ensure they get resolved. This means staff must be adequately trained to spot security issues; understand the importance of protecting sensitive information; and recognize the risks of mishandling this data. All employees should know how to report anomalies, mistakes, or any concerns immediately. To effectively execute this, employees must understand what to look for; where key vulnerabilities lie; what steps to take when a security issue arises; and who they should alert.

  5. Partner With an Industry-Specific IT Security Provider
  6. Complimentary White PaperManaging Risk with Truly Secure Vendor Management Program Get a Copy

    To help augment security responsibilities and combat cyber-attacks, many community financial institutions are turning to industry-specific IT and security service providers familiar with banking regulations to act as an extension of their organization. These organizations act as true partners and work alongside current staff to provide timely support, and they help the financial institution successfully design and execute a comprehensive security strategy. An IT and security service provider can help automate and control many of the administrative functions that normally fall to the IT security department, making it less daunting for personnel to take time away from the office.

Cybercrime is one of the greatest security challenges and concerns for financial institutions today, and community banks and credit unions cannot be complacent when it comes to protecting themselves and the sensitive information they hold. When the security staff is out or unavailable, outsourcing security processes helps fill the personnel gap and provide added stability for the institution and peace of mind to all.

At Safe Systems we understand the challenges that come with managing security programs and ensuring the network is safe and secure. By making the decision to partner with Safe Systems, your organization will benefit from time-saving automation, an in-depth view of your IT network environment, and additional support in co-managing your IT security operations. We want to provide you with assurance that the institution’s IT network is functioning efficiently, optimally, securely, and is in compliance with industry regulations at all times.

20 Jun 2018
Is Bank Security Your Financial Institution's Weakest LinkIs Bank Security Your Financial Institution's Weakest Link

Is Bank Security Your Weakest Link?

Is Security Your Financial Institution's Weakest Link

Is Bank Security Your Weakest Link?

Financial security systems have changed dramatically in the last 20 years. Gone are the days of high-walled booths, metal bars and bolted vaults standing in the way of criminals. Today’s threat landscape spans a range of electronic devices. This is due in part by the increase in internet access and usage of digital banking (particularly via mobile devices), which makes data more vulnerable and offers more outlets for criminal intrusion.

As a result, today’s well-funded professional hackers are focused on information theft and compromising data for both monetary gain and “professional” recognition. The financial services industry continues to be heavily targeted because of the sensitive financial data that institutions hold – data that can be used by hackers to commit fraud themselves or sell to a third-party. Cybercriminals are displaying new and advanced levels of sophistication, knowledge and ambition to execute attacks including: malware threats, DDOS attacks, phishing attempts and data breaches.

Importance of Being Secure

Falling victim to security breaches and associated attacks is very costly for financial institutions, both from a financial and reputational standpoint. According to Cybersecurity Ventures, the global cost of cybercrime damages will hit $6 trillion annually by 2021. This includes damage and destruction of data, theft of personal and financial data, and disruption to the normal business operations, among others.

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), which was released in June 2015, is designed to ensure banks 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 and the Evolving Security Landscape Free White PaperWhite Paper Download

Ransomware has established itself as one of the leading cyber threats for many organizations, but especially financial institutions. A Cisco 2017 report states that ransomware is growing at a rate of 350 percent annually. Many legitimate websites have been unknowingly infected with malware and more emails are getting through with malware than in years past. 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. It is capable of gathering credentials from specific users, or even documents and information that resides on the machines themselves. According to Cybersecurity Ventures, ransomware damages reached $5 billion across all industries in 2017.

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 in such attacks is to trick employees into clicking on links or opening attachments that redirect them to fraudulent websites where they share login credentials and other personal information. These compromised credentials allow cyber criminals 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, cyber criminals 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

 

Cyber-attacks are often able to outpace cyber-defense due to a shortage of qualified cybersecurity personnel and the limited IT staff bandwidth to stay abreast of a continually evolving security landscape. Employee testing and training is critical for financial institutions to decrease vulnerabilities and ensure that their staff — at all levels — 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 Bank Security

 

With so much at risk, it is imperative that community banks and credit unions have the proper security layers in place to protect against these attacks and stay updated on all emerging security threats. While cybersecurity has become a major issue for the financial industry, the truth is that many financial institutions are too complacent when it comes to protecting themselves. Some community banks and credit unions believe that doing the bare minimum for protection is enough. The recent data breaches and cyberattacks in the financial industry prove that this is simply not true.

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 strategy that places many uniquely tailored layers throughout their networks, 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; and
  • 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.


White Paper Download

Strengthen Your Strategy: Why a Layered Defense is the Best Choice for Your Bank’s IT Security Program

Learn why a single layer of security, such as antivirus, is no longer enough in the current risk environment.
Free White Paper

29 Nov 2017
Combatting Cybercrime

Combatting Cybercrime: Change Your Cybersecurity Mindset to Enhance Your Institution’s Strategy

Combatting Cybercrime

While cybersecurity has become a major issue for the financial industry, the truth is that many financial institutions are falling complacent when it comes to protecting themselves from cyber threats. Some community banks and credit unions believe that doing the bare minimum for protection, meaning antivirus software and installing firewalls, is enough. The recent data breaches and cyberattacks in the financial industry prove that this is simply not true. The first step financial institutions must take to truly combat cybercrime is to change their cybersecurity mindsets. Let’s take a look at some common misconceptions about cybersecurity:

“We don’t need to involve our board of directors in our cybersecurity planning.”


Participation by the entire board of directors is essential to combat cybercrime. The board cannot delegate its responsibility for the consequences of unsound or imprudent policies and practices when it comes to cybersecurity and IT practices. Board engagement has become more important than ever as both the Federal Financial Institution Examination Council’s (FFIEC) Management Handbook, and the FFIEC’s Information Security Handbook focus specifically on the responsibility and accountability of the Board as it relates to information technology oversight. Boards that do not adhere to these new standards run the risk of penalties, lowered CAMELS scores and audit rankings, and in extreme circumstances, financial accountability.

“Our cybersecurity plan from last year is still enough.”


The security landscape is constantly evolving, and it is imperative to have a solid cybersecurity 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 to mitigate evolving cybersecurity risks. These controls include firewalls and antivirus software, written policies and procedures and layered security defenses to protect the institution from cyber threats. 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. The FFIEC’s Cybersecurity Assessment Tool provides best practices financial institutions can use to evaluate their inherent risk profile and cybersecurity maturity and develop a plan that adequately addresses their cybersecurity needs.

“We already have the latest and greatest technology in place.”

There is no single security product that will cover all of an institution’s needs and efficiently combat security breaches and attacks. It is essential to implement a layered security approach and select security defenses that fit closely with the institution’s long-term goals as well as support the IT and compliance strategies. Additionally, these security solutions will need to change over time as criminals’ strategies evolve. It is important to research, evaluate and determine when it’s the right time to upgrade software and invest in the next level of technology and software solutions.

Cybercrime is one of the greatest security challenges and concerns for financial institutions today and community banks and credit unions cannot be complacent when it comes to protecting themselves and the sensitive information they hold. Understanding cybersecurity best practices and taking a more proactive approach to creating a secure network environment is the best way to ensure your institution is secure.

For more information on cybersecurity, download our white paper, “Ransomware and the Evolving Security Landscape of Today’s Financial Institution.”

White Paper Download
Read the Guide

26 Apr 2017
Why Financial Institutions Should Invest in Layered Security

Why Financial Institutions Should Invest in Layered Security

Why Financial Institutions Should Invest in Layered Security

Phishing, malware, ransomware and a host of additional fraudulent activities continue to target financial institutions. While history has shown that well-designed single-focus solutions can prove useful in stopping specific attacks, the capabilities of advanced malware are now so broad and sophisticated that such protections inevitably fail – opening the way to costly data breaches and other malicious attacks. What is perhaps most frustrating is that Verizon’s Data Breach Investigation Report indicates that 97% of attacks were easily avoidable.

To establish a secure IT network and be better protected in the digital world, banks should employ a strategy that places many uniquely tailored layers throughout their networks, from the end user to the Internet. By employing multiple controls, security layers ensure that gaps or weaknesses in one control, or layer of controls, are compensated for by others. For example, if a malicious email message should make it past the firewall, it would then be countered by the mail server’s antivirus, and if it somehow makes it through that layer, it can be stopped by the workstation’s antivirus system.

A uniquely tailored layered security approach enables financial institutions to:

  • Monitor antivirus for servers, workstations, and off-site laptops;
  • Using services that evaluate site lookups to avoid exposure to compromised websites;
  • Monitor unusual activity on networks as well as defend 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; and
  • Patch machines, encrypt laptops, and install alerts on new devices plugged into the network.

Government Regulations and Guidance Around Security Expectations

There are also regulatory requirements and expectations for banks to invest in proper security. Layered security and compliance policies have come under increased regulatory focus recently, which is evident with the release for the FFIEC Cybersecurity Assessment Tool (CAT) and the updated FFIEC Management Examination Handbook. In addition, the responsibility of securing confidential customer information is mandated by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999. This law established that financial institutions must protect their IT networks from attack and identify any possible breaches that manage to bypass these protections.

This guidance is always changing, and financial institutions must adapt to regulatory demands. IT auditors and examiners will look for evidence of a thorough risk assessment; make sure that written policies and procedures align with the assessment; and then verify that controls and daily practices are appropriate. 


Each financial institution will have a different security approach based on its unique risks, but all financial institutions should implement a security plan that can effectively prevent attacks, assess vulnerabilities and constantly update security measures as new technology assets are added and government regulations evolve.

For more information please download our complimentary white paper, Strengthen Your Strategy: Why a Layered Defense is the Best Choice for Your Bank’s IT Security Program.

White Paper Download

Strengthen Your Strategy: Why a Layered Defense is the Best Choice for Your Bank’s IT Security Program

Learn why a single layer of security, such as antivirus, is no longer enough in the current risk environment.
Free White Paper

12 Apr 2017
Community Banks Ransomware

Ransomware Response: 8 Ways Your Community Bank Can Prevent Malicious Attacks

Community Banks Ransomware

One of the biggest cyber threats today is ransomware, with instances of these malicious attacks increasing by 44% in the last six months alone. In fact, according to the 2017 State of Malware Report by Malwarebytes, ransomware was the favorite method of attack used against businesses in 2016. Recent FBI statistics indicate that hackers successfully extorted more than $209 million in ransomware payments from businesses and financial institutions in Q1 2016, and the business of ransomware is now on track to become a $1 billion per year crime.

(more…)

05 Apr 2017
5 Steps Community Banks Can Take

5 Steps to Building a Strong Security Culture

5 Steps Community Banks Can Take

Financial institutions face increasing pressure to provide enhanced consumer protection against phishing, sophisticated malware and fraudulent activities. Smaller organizations are the prime targets for calculated, malicious attacks, due to the sensitive financial data banks are responsible for.

Investing in technology resources is necessary to protect community banks from security breaches and attacks, but it is equally important to instill a strong security culture within the bank to help all departments and personnel adequately combat these threats. IT security is integral to running a successful institution, and banks should begin to educate and train their employees on the proper way to tackle security-related issues and safeguard customer information.

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