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5 Big Cybersecurity Threats for Banks and How to Combat Them

Much like any other industry, the banking sector has been increasingly migrating into the digital age. Gone are the days when you absolutely must cash or deposit your checks by visiting your local bank in person. You can make nearly any transaction online through your bank. With this continued transition into the digital age, however, comes one more facet to stay on top of — cybersecurity. Today, we’ll focus on banks’ cybersecurity, the greatest cyber threats they face today, and how financial institutions of all sizes can take crucial steps to avoid them:

Banks Face a Higher Risk for Cyberattacks Now More Than Ever

Thieves are tenacious and clever, especially as we rely more and more on the Internet to help us complete our transactions. Instead of donning ski masks and demanding tellers to stuff their money sacks full of cash, criminals have become quieter yet more insidious by hiding in the digital world. In fact, banks now more than ever have been experiencing an alarming increase in cyberattacks and scams during the pandemic. Consequently, cybersecurity is the highest priority for banks, as 71% of financial service leaders expect to increase their spending in cybersecurity solutions this year alone.

But it’s not enough to throw money at the latest and greatest forms of cybersecurity software in the hopes that they will protect your financial institution. It’s imperative that banks understand and recognize their greatest cybersecurity threats and have the proper tools to mitigate these attacks, preserve their reputation and success, and retain happy customers. Doing “what has worked in the past” is no longer sufficient.

The 5 Biggest Cybersecurity Threats to Banks

Just like in any other sector, cyberattacks targeting banks are becoming more prevalent and more sophisticated each day. It is essential that your financial institution recognizes and stays ahead of these threats to protect your sensitive data. Here are the 5 biggest cybersecurity threats that banks face today:

  • Unencrypted data. Along with unprotected mobile applications, unencrypted data is a massive threat to financial institutions of all sizes. Should hackers seize your unencrypted data, they can use it right away, which will create serious problems for your organization. All data should be encrypted; even if would-be thieves stole it, they would face the hurdle of attempting to unencrypt it.
  • Malware. Another longstanding threat to the banking sector, malware can compromise end-user devices such as computers and smartphones, risking your bank’s cybersecurity each time the end user connects with your network. This allows cybercriminals to gain access to a bank’s network and sensitive data. Malware attacks are unfortunately becoming easier and cheaper for cyberthieves to carry out; in fact, it was responsible for 75% of all data breaches that occurred in financial institutions in 2019.
  • Vulnerable third-party services. It’s common for banks to partner with third-party organizations to employ their services in an effort to better serve their customers. This is perfectly fine unless those organizations are either not secure or don’t have the same level of security that you do — otherwise, you open yourself up to experiencing a data breach. Breaches and compromises can even occur through banking apps that aren’t secure, both on the customer side or the server side.
  • Manipulated data. Not all hackers want to steal your data; some just sneak in to change or manipulate it. This subtle type of cyberattack is becoming more prevalent and, since it can be nearly impossible to detect, it can go unnoticed for long periods of time. This can result in non-compliance with data standards, which can lead to hefty fines and a tarnished reputation.
  • Social engineering. This type of cybersecurity threat doesn’t target data directly – instead, it targets people. Cybercriminals will coax users to engage in certain behaviors in order to unknowingly give up their login credentials, unlocking the proverbial safe — no holds barred.

Two major types to look out for include spoofing and phishing. Spoofing happens when cybercriminals use a website to impersonate a bank website’s URL — and it looks and functions exactly the same as any bank’s site would. When a user inputs their login credentials in the fake website, the hacker attains that information. On the other hand, phishing occurs through various communications including emails, texts, or phone calls. These communications impersonate an official company in order to coax or trick employees or costumers to share sensitive information. Related (nautically-inspired) terms include “spear-phishing” and “whaling,” in which bank executives are the targets of sophisticated and convincing phishing campaigns.

What You Can Do to Mitigate or Prevent Cyberattacks

Banks must stay on top of their cybersecurity game not only to protect their data but also to meet and uphold specific compliance standards and regulations. Here are a few ideas to help your financial institution stay ahead of the curve and prevent cyberattacks:

  • Encrypt your data. This should be your first step. As we stated before, should your data be stolen, hackers will have a difficult time unpacking and using it if it’s encrypted.
  • Employ multi-factor authentication. Another excellent tactic is taking more steps toward using multi-factor authentication if you haven’t already. This grants access to users who present two or more login credentials when prompted, including PINs, passwords, and/or fingerprints.
  • Perform routine cyber-risk assessments. A defense system is only good if it works. It’s important to test your cybersecurity measures occasionally to ensure that you’re properly protected. Doing so can help you prioritize areas you need to shore up. Here’s a handy guide to help you get started!
  • Bolster various endpoints. Banks have several endpoints to take into account, including smartphones, tablets, personal computers, and even servers to ATMs. If a hacker is able to access your network via a compromised ATM, for example, it could cause an ineffable amount of damage.
  • Invest in solid software security measures. A solid medley of software security solutions can do a world of good! Investigate and invest in firewalls, antivirus, anti-malware software, and hardware security (hardsec) devices to help develop a strong infrastructure against cybercriminals.
  • Train your employees. Your employees should all be kept up to date about best practices in cybersecurity in your financial institution. Ensure that they receive the proper training to identify threats and minimize the chances of data breaches. Consider adding refresher trainings once or twice a year (or however often you see fit).
  • Educate your customers. It doesn’t hurt to reach out to your happy customers to inform them about cybersafety! Construct a helpful email or newsletter educating them about cybersecurity and what to look out for.
  • Consider Q-Net Security. To get the greatest protection against cyberthreats, you’ll want to rely on a solution that prevents attacks rather than simply detecting them. That’s where Q-Net Security comes in. Through our Q-Box, a hardware security (hardsec) unit, Q-Net Security secures all network traffic that flows through it. Our Q-Box renders all of your endpoints totally invisible, is completely immutable, and requires no patches or updates. Just plug it in and get back to taking care of your customers!

Bank on Q-Net Security to Keep You Safe

Don’t let cybercriminals win. Prevent data breaches with the help of Q-Net Security! This simple solution could be just what your financial institution needs to keep you at the top of your cybersecurity game. Contact us today at [email protected] to learn more or get started!

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