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How can financial institutions build resilience against ransomware attacks?

It’s getting more challenging as cyber-criminals continue to evolve and use sophisticated technologies for attacks. Amidst the growing threat landscape, even the most security-wrapped businesses are at constant risk. According to the IDC’s “2021 Ransomware Study”, approximate 37% of global organizations apprised that they were a victim of some type of ransomware attack. The trend has kept the flame in 2022, and some major financial institutions have fallen victim to the specific attack type. And to your knowledge, it just took only a single password compromise for a successful ransomware attack. Doesn’t that drop you in fear? The blog reflects on cybersecurity solutions for financial services institutions that help build the required resilience.

What makes the financial services sector a top target?

Yes, that’s the initial question we are going to address here. Why does the financial sector get top-eyed by cyber criminals? Let’s see what it mounts here: –

  • Information pays well

When it comes to financial institutions, they gather a lot of information about the clients, employees, and partners. It opens the perfect room for a ‘double-extortion attack’ where the attacker first steals the data and encrypts the system. And then they threaten with the data they hold for ransom payment from the target organization. That is where the accumulation of more information flames the kind of attack.

  • More the attack surface

The present tick is where a lot is happening in the financial segment, including technology improvements, technical integrations, etc. You can find advancements in AI, cloud and much more getting optimized and incorporated successfully here. While these are essential factors for your businesses, it also creates an increased attack surface for cybercriminals to exploit.

  • Involved security complexness

The challenge to protect digital assets is yet another concern mounting on the head of financial firms. Systems and technologies evolve in the digital backdrop, and organizations require the right level of monitoring and control over them. Even experienced in-house security professionals find it hard to cope-up with technology complexity and the involved factor of exploit.

Which class of financial entities are the most vulnerable?

And now- which section of the financial entities get most impacted by ransomware attacks? Of course, large-scale entities will probably have enough security deployed at various levels. The same thought goes on a cybercriminal mind, which brings small to mid-scale entities at constant risk. To the latest stats on ransomware attacks, middle market financial institutions or banks tend to be highly vulnerable and lucrative targets.

These middle market banks or FIs are less likely to use traditional or on-premises infrastructure. Instead, they operate in hyper-scale and multi-cloud environments, expanding their digital coverage. As a result, ransomware can spread rapidly through their IT surface, putting them at higher risk of suffering data loss and ultimately paying the ransom. To mitigate the condition, you need to know what ways of attack are mostly used by the cybercriminals here.

Most common ways of attack using ransomware

  • Social engineering

One typical technique used is social engineering, sticking to end-user trust and emotions. It could be as simple as a targeted mail that points to an employee reward or appreciation from the boss. Or something that might entice you as an employee to click like an attachment representing the financial documents of your customer. You must know that 98 % of cyber-attacks involve some social engineering techniques used within.

  • Executable ransomware

Another common approach used by cybercriminals is pushing an attachment download or link bonding against the target. Employees of your company might download these attachments or click those links that trigger malicious code to write a file to the disk. And upon installing these downloaded files, you have completely fallen into the dark world of the ransomware attack. From there, it can navigate through your network and produce impacts that can cost much.

  • Fileless attacks

And finally, you must also know that ransomware attacks can be painful even if you have not installed the malicious downloaded file. It means that ransomware doesn’t need you to install the file to create its impact. They might go lurked in different applications like MS Word, which means that any connected database, web-based application, and storage location faces the risk. What we point out is ‘Fileless Ransomware attack’ and goes even more challenging than the previous two ways of attack.

How can financial institutions build the required defence?

We have so far seen what section of the industry gets mostly affected, what makes them a top target and how the attack typically shapes up. Now, it is time to know how cyber security services and awareness programs illuminate the security light within the sector. While companies might have security strategies, policies, and procedures in their belt, identifying

security holes is vital for proactively shielding the attack. Here are the four steps you can take from a cyber security services perspective to fend against the rising challenge of ransomware attacks.

  • Initiate cybersecurity awareness

First things first! The best strategy to initiate at first is to create cyber security awareness among your employees. By doing this, you are actually cutting the root of an attack and stopping its probability of ever happening. The banking sector must concentrate on training programs and provide baseline tests for employees. With this, you could know how well your employees stand against a future or real-world attack and implement the needed patch to their lacking’s. Major cyber security services companies provide the required security awareness programs as a part of the program or engagement handshakes.

  • Perform periodic penetration tests

Periodic penetration goes an effective technique to fend off ransomware attacks. By performing pen tests, financial entities can lower the extent of a potential ransomware attack. Pen tests against an entity’s network provide visibility into real-world threats that might potentially affect its network security. The testing process in the after-back creates a big difference in the size of the ransom demanded and helps limit the amount of data stolen. Some other benefits of engaging with periodic pen tests include reduced remediation costs, reduced network downtime, improved defence posture, improved security maturity and compliance with industry laws and regulations.

  • Be keen on regular backup plans

There is always a common misconception among the banks that if you have Microsoft 365, your systems get backed up. A parallel backup and recovery plan becomes vital when the threat landscape grows and requires protection against data loss incidents. You can take these actions in-house or through a partner according to your business ideology. Your partners might be capable of automatic detection, encryption, and data duplication across your IT surface. They can also help stay in compliance with many industry regulations, sticking to data privacy and protection.

  • Investing in intelligent email security solutions

Cybercriminals tend to use email as a primary weapon. Through the targeted approach, they infiltrate a network, perform data encryptions and demand ransom for the recovery. The prime reason for exploitation points to human error and the involvement of insufficient email technologies. By adopting machine-intelligent email security solutions, organizations can effectively flag and block suspicious emails without letting a delay. These solutions try to understand the local context, communication behaviour and relationships within the organization to detect advanced threat vectors and protect from data loss.

Summing Up

Through this blog, we have unveiled the best insights about ransomware attacks and how the financial sector can cope-up with the alarming situation. Ransomware would continue its journey as long as cybercriminals can make money out of it. Here, middle market banks are the most impacted, according to the known stats and records of ransomware attacks. However, organization of any size or domain could be a probable fall to the rising threat of the specific attack form. Organizations, especially in the financial sector, need to proactively take steps to detect, mitigate or reduce the impact of the attack.

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