How To Implement Strong Security Measures In The Financial Industry
Srdjan Gombar

While security is always important, it’s never as relevant as in the financial industry. First of all, there’s money on the line. A security breach will likely result in money loss and numerous (expensive) suits.

Second, people are jumpy when their money is involved. So, if you’re running a financial organization, it may take just one breach for your users (even the most loyal ones) to lose their trust in you. This could be a reputation hit from which your organization might not recover.

Lastly, with all these resources and tools out there, neglecting your security is just lazy. Here’s what you can do to start improving the situation on this front as early as today.

Prepare the framework

Introducing random measures is never going to be good enough. You need a system, and to start building a system, you must construct a framework. Now, frameworks of different financial systems may vary greatly, but the core five principles are:

  • Identifying threats
  • Protecting against threats
  • Detecting anomalies
  • Responding in time
  • Recovery after a cybersecurity event
  • All the while, this system needs to work silently in the background. The users shouldn’t even be aware that it’s there. After all, they don't have to understand what happens behind the curtain to enjoy the collective protection of a secure financial system.

    This is also the stage during which you have to plan which tools your business will use. Here, you will decide whether to outsource your cybersecurity and even which VPN to use. Take as much time as you need to plan everything out.

    Lastly, you want to prepare proper NDAs for your employees. While these are pretty standard in the financial industry, you do not want to use a template. Instead, you need to have one customized and examined by a legal expert, ideally one specializing in financial law.

    Protect against ATO attacks

    One of the biggest threats in the financial world is for one to have their account stolen. While some other profiles may contain sensitive user information, these have them. Even if they don’t steal any money, by just getting insight into your transactions and financial behavior, these thieves can put you in a pretty bad spot. These are so-called account takeover (ATO) attacks.

    When set up correctly, your system can quickly recognize and diagnose the problem. This will allow it to be able to stop ATO attacks promptly. The truth is that ATO attacks seem to be the biggest problem, seeing how a malicious third party may obtain an account username and password outside your system. No amount of in-house protection can save you if your clients blurt out their password to someone or make it too easy to crack.

    Know your customers

    Still, by knowing your customers, you can notice if something’s off. For instance, you can offer your users to save their preferred device. Then, if they log in from an unknown device, you can notify them or even ask for an SMS confirmation. Methods like multi-factor authentication can also be of great help.

    Incentivize learning

    The only way to keep things safe is to incentivize learning. You can prevent most cyberattacks by being careful and exercising security measures. Still, learning on your own is not enough. You also need to ensure that you train your entire staff. Other than this, you also want to raise awareness amongst your users.

    Falling for phishing attacks is bad but expected if your users are not familiar with the dangers of phishing. Luckily, there are many ways to resolve this. In the video game industry, you often have a tip during the loading screen, saying that the employee of the company that developed the game will never ask for your password. Such a practice could be introduced in the financial sector, as well.

    So, ensure to provide all the tips and learning materials but also try to incentivize learning. In the case of your employees, it works best if you were to make it mandatory.

    Most problems come from people using the same password for everything. We’ll give you an example of how this works.

    Don’t use the same passwords for trading and portfolio backtesting

    For instance, they’ll use the same password for their investment app and the tool they use for portfolio backtesting. To make matters worse, some might even use this same password for their Facebook and Steam accounts. The problem is that hell only takes one leak to break loose.

    Stay in touch and keep monitoring

    Previously, we’ve talked about the importance of knowing your customers. Well, the only way to achieve this is through continuous communication. We’ve mentioned memorizing their devices; however, what if they’ve only had one login? What happens if someone figures out the password of their email account or steals their phone?

    The key is to stay in touch and use multiple communication channels. This way, you can inform them more effectively and maintain communication even if one of the channels gets compromised.

    You must monitor for threats 24/7. Failing to do so is the digital era equivalent of leaving your safe unguarded or, worse yet, unlocked. Some financial institutions even hire the services of white-hat hackers. This way, you can test your security in a completely safe environment.

    While some might find this too harsh, you should introduce a zero-trust policy. Always use encryption for sensitive information and carefully choose your data center. The most common vulnerabilities are:

  • Personal devices
  • Personal networks
  • Unsupervised cloud platforms
  • Former employees
  • Integrated apps
  • These won’t always be the problem, but you can never be too careful.

    Solid security measures are the only way forward for the financial industry

    So, set a solid framework, educate all parties, and never let your guard down. This way, you will keep your organization’s security up to the highest standards. Just keep in mind that your job is never done. There’s always room for more, and there’s always something to improve.