Businessman touching virtual screen with banking showing financial services and SASE

Today’s Cyber Threats to Financial Services Organizations Require Balancing Security With Performance

In order to meet the evolving requirements from growing customer demand for secure, fast and accessible financial services, financial organizations continue to rapidly innovate their digital capabilities. While increased digital services and extensive cloud usage have helped businesses keep up with consumer needs, they have also increased security risks.

Over the past decade, financial organizations have witnessed a digital transformation revolution. For example, today there are several major banks that operate without a physical branch, because all interactions, services, and operations are facilitated in the cloud. To enable this, these organizations are leveraging the latest in technology innovations, and have extended their network connectivity to external endpoints, such as ATMs, smart payment terminals, point-of-sale (POS) devices, and more.

While this transformation has significantly improved the outreach and accessibility for financial firms, it has also rapidly expanded organizations’ external digital footprint. Since all these externally connected systems and devices are located outside of the internal network, they are often unmonitored and unmanaged. This is an opportunity for bad actors to leverage automated tools to identify vulnerable devices, exploit their weaknesses to penetrate the perimeter, and move laterally into the main network.

To address this, the financial services industry has increased its spending in cybersecurity in the past few years. Financial organizations are currently spending nearly 11 percent of their IT budgets on cybersecurity, which is significantly higher than other industries such as manufacturing and healthcare. However, these improvements have mainly been focused on building internal network protections. Some firms may not realize that much of the critical security risks they face come from the external digital landscape. With many endpoints and hyperconnected systems positioned outside of the core network defenses, any small vulnerability such as unpatched devices and unmonitored traffic can lead to a crippling security breach.

The cyber threat landscape’s evolution with new technologies

The evolution of new and advanced technologies has provided a significant advantage for many financial organizations. For example, operational performance and the ability to deliver improvements in accessibility, efficiency, and functionality are enabled by the adoption of 5G and the new technologies it supports. However, these new technologies have also introduced a host of vulnerabilities.

Specific to 5G, its rapid adoption has broadened the attack surface risks for organizations. According to recent research, 79 percent of businesses across 12 industries believe that 5G has created significant risks for their networks due to the number of externally connected devices, increased service access, and weakened supply chain integrity.

The high-speed and reliable connectivity delivered by 5G networks allows organizations to improve their services and establish more seamless interconnections between smart devices and cloud systems. These benefits are also the downfall of 5G security since attackers can exploit the real-time connectivity of devices and compromise interconnected assets in much less time. Leveraging the expanded attack surface, threat actors can execute exploitation attacks such as DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service), SQL injection, remote code execution, and zero-day exploits more easily through a single external point of compromise.

New workforce practices bring elevated risks

New ways of working are changing the cyber threat landscape for financial services organizations, in addition to risks introduced by new technologies.

For example, nearly 69 percent of financial firms allow their staff to work remotely at least once a week. Prior to COVID, that number was less than 30 percent. This evolution in workforce practices results in a large part of an organization’s workforce being constantly located outside the secure internal network.

Remote workers often also use personal devices connected to unmonitored public or private broadband to connect to the enterprise network and access critical assets. This again presents an expanded and unmonitored attack surface – where threat actors can exploit vulnerabilities in remote user devices, leverage access privileges, and carry out sophisticated attacks.

In addition, organizations have changed how they store and access their critical resources. These days cloud migration enables companies to shift network resources that were previously delivered in hardware now to software. This results in much less data being stored and secured centrally, which provides attackers more opportunities to access it.

Maintaining performance and digital mobility while addressing security concerns

With the adoption of new technologies, new workplace practices, and accelerating digital transformation, security risks for financial firms will increase. However, once they can gain greater insight into these risks, they can address them with the right security approaches.

Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) provides a proven solution to these issues. It is an effective framework for building network architectures in a way that tightly integrates multiple network management and security functions into a single unified service that can be delivered entirely through the cloud.

SASE converges network performance and security so that critical tasks such as traffic monitoring and access control can be performed more easily without impacting network performance. This unified method also eliminates the need for data to pass through several virtual network functions (VNFs), which improves security and connectivity, while decreasing latency.

In summary, SASE delivers granular security control across the entire financial network infrastructure, while also driving business performance through optimized user experience. Leveraging SASE allows financial firms to manage all security and network functions through a single management console. This delivers secure, scalable, and reliable enterprise networking; while also providing security, segmentation, and visibility across all interconnected assets within the IT estate.  Armed with these scalable and advanced capabilities, financial firms can enhance their multi-cloud application performance securely, while significantly reducing network management, operational costs, and organization risks.