If there is one industry where both organizations and consumers alike would want the most stringent levels of cyber security, it is likely the financial services industry. The fallout of even one successful hacking event attempted on a bank, a credit card company, a credit reporting agency, has far reaching consequences for both consumers and the smaller companies that interact with these financial entities.
According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s recent report, “Cyber Risk and the U.S. Financial System: A Pre-Mortem Analysis“, firms associated with financial services are 300 times more likely to encounter a cyber attack within any given year, than other firms in other industries. This should be a wake-up call to all of the smaller organizations who depend upon the integrity of the data they receive from these larger financial institutions. While smaller firms have no control over the larger financial entities they interact with, there are steps they can take on their end to stop a cyber disaster in its tracks before it reaches their internal systems.
Maintain System Updates
Hackers are continually on the lookout for outdated systems, browsers, and other types of software that make it so much easier for them to penetrate a computer system. Every organization, whether related to financial services or not, should have a comprehensive plan that includes keeping track of all their various types of software and applying any software updates in order to stay abreast of the latest versions, patches, etc.
Regular Vulnerability Testing
It’s not enough to hire a technology firm to do a one-time-only penetration and vulnerability test to look for weak areas in an internal computer system. Software changes continually and vulnerabilities can occur in areas that were previously deemed safe. Financial service organizations need to conduct regular vulnerability scans and penetration testing to ensure previously safe systems are still secure.
Hackers love to target email servers because it allows them an opportunity to gain access to internal email accounts and pose as employees in the organization. Malicious hackers can then ask for confidential information from another employee, who doesn’t realize they are interacting with a cyber attacker. Hackers can also send out emails to an organization’s clients and infect their networks with malicious code. A financial services company that does not harden their email activity, runs the risk of exposing confidential or sensitive data to bad actors and/or receiving a poor reputation within the financial services community for passing on a cyber attack nightmare to their clients.
How to Stay Safe
It is possible for even smaller financial organizations to secure their computer systems to prevent the chaos that occurs from a cyber attack. While smaller firms may not have the resources to hire a full-time IT professional, there are IT management companies that offer security services to their clients. By hiring an external company to provide cyber security, even smaller firms can have access to professional management of their data without adding the burden of investing in a full-fledged IT department.
Small firms who hire these types of IT companies should expect them to create a comprehensive plan detailing how the IT firm plans to secure the client’s data. An external IT firm can analyze their client’s computer resources and make suggestions on how to protect critical, sensitive data from becoming vulnerable to attack both from within the company and from without. At the very least, the three key points of maintaining system updates, regular penetration testing, and securing email traffic should be part of the IT company’s security plan.
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