Emerging Threats to Financial Services

Financial institutions are an obviously lucrative target for cybercriminals. Because they’re dealing with such vast amounts of money, fraudsters often go after banks and other institutions in the hope of breaching their security and helping themselves to the proceeds.

This is why businesses in the financial services sector have more reason than most to be vigilant when it comes to cybersecurity. It is essential to the reputation of your business, and to retain the trust of your customers, that you take robust measures to safeguard your organisation against cyberattacks and deal with them when they do occur.

In this guide, we’ll look at some of the most important emerging cybersecurity threats and offer tips about what you can do to keep your financial services business protected.

  1. Ai Powered Cyber Attacks
  2. Ransomware & Cryptojacking
  3. Cloud Service Exploits
  4. Mobile & IoT Security Challenges
  5. Supply Chain & Third Party Risks
  6. Insider Threats & Employee Manipulation


AI-Powered Cyber Attacks

The revolution in artificial intelligence has been the subject of much hype and speculation, particularly with regard to the potentially transformative impacts it could have on the way we do business. But the technology also has the potential to be put more unsavoury uses.

Cybersecurity threats driven by AI are likely to be a key focus for security experts. While AI can be used to enhance security – for example, through threat detection and response – it can also be used to bypass security protocols and mount more sophisticated attacks than we have seen before, including through the use of deepfakes and other methods.

AI-powered bots can automate different stages of a cyberattack, including reconnaissance, infiltration and the exploitation of security vulnerabilities. Also, because AI algorithms can analyse massive amounts of data, they can be used to create highly targeted and convincing phishing emails and messages, personalised down to the target’s demographics and online habits, for example.


Ransomware and Cryptojacking

Ransomware – a type of attack where a user or organisation is denied access to files or data on a computer system, pending the payment of a ransom – has long been a common cybersecurity threat. Experts are warning that the increased adoption of AI is adding to the problem.

According to the National Cyber Security Centre, AI is likely to increase the threat from ransomware over the next two years. This is partly because AI is giving otherwise unskilled fraudsters access to highly sophisticated technology, allowing them to target potential victims more effectively.

Another threat that’s currently on the rise is cryptojacketing. These attacks typically infect victims’ devices with malware – often sent through phishing emails or malicious websites – and then using their processing power to mine cryptocurrencies.

Cryptojacking can cause a series of problems for victims. It can significantly damage the performance of devices by hijacking their CPU power, as well as increasing their energy consumption and hence their electricity bills. It can also result in security vulnerabilities which can then be exploited in other attacks, such as data theft.


Cloud Service Exploits

Another cybersecurity threat to watch out for is cloud service exploits. This term refers to vulnerabilities or weaknesses within cloud computing architecture which can be exploited by fraudsters seeking access to steal data, disrupt services or commit other attacks.

Because of the centralisation of critical services and sensitive data within cloud platforms, they make particularly attractive targets for cybercriminals. As the underlying cloud infrastructure may be shared between multiple tenants, attackers may exploit security vulnerabilities to gain access to neighbouring cloud instances.

Cloud service exploits can cause serious problems for victims, including data breaches – which can result in serious reputational damage as well as financial losses and regulatory penalties – along with DDoS attacks, causing service interruptions and downtime.

Sentis has extensive experience of delivering Microsoft Managed Cloud and bespoke private cloud solutions to suit clients’ needs. Our data centres have exemplary levels of physical and IP security, with continuous monitoring to identify any potential issues.


Mobile and IoT Security Challenges

Mobile users are facing growing cybersecurity risks. As mobile now accounts for more online traffic than desktop internet use, fraudsters are devoting more of their efforts to targeting people using mobile devices to browse the web – including business users.

Malware, phishing and man-in-the-middle attacks are an increasingly common threat facing mobile users. Many unsuspecting users are clicking on phishing links – commonly distributed via email and text message, as well as QR codes – while using enterprise devices, giving away their credentials or infecting their device with malware.

Mobile apps, too, may have security flaws that can be exploited. Mobile banking apps, for example, are especially attractive targets for criminals; security breaches of these apps can have devastating reputational impacts, so financial services firms must be alert to the danger.

Internet of Things (IoT) devices have also had security vulnerabilities exploited by criminals. In particular, IoT devices are commonly targeted by botnets, infecting them with malware and using them to launch cyberattacks, as well as being hacked to harvest credentials and steal data.


Supply Chain and Third-Party Risks

The increasing interconnectedness between organisations and their various suppliers, contractors and other third-party entities brings additional cybersecurity vulnerabilities with it. Third parties may have security vulnerabilities in their apps or systems, which attackers can then use to gain access to sensitive data or to disrupt operations.

Likewise, if a third party suffers a security breach, cybercriminals may be able to steal sensitive data. It may be that a third-party contractor or supplier has inadequate security practices that leave it open to attack, including poor password management, insufficient access controls or a lack of encryption.

Financial services firms should be especially alert to these dangers and take steps to mitigate them. These include thorough due diligence and security assessment of third parties before entering into business partnerships, contractual agreements that clearly spell out security obligations, incident response plans and regular audits of third parties’ security posture.


Insider Threats and Employee Manipulation

Financial services firms inevitably have to trust certain individuals with access to sensitive systems and data. However, it can cause major security problems when employees who have insider knowledge exploit this privileged access for criminal gain.

Employees may steal sensitive information – including customer details – to pass it on to fraudsters so that they can use it for the purposes of identity theft, financial fraud and other offences. Also, employees may use information they’ve gained to conduct insider training or to sabotage financial systems and operations, causing potentially serious damage and reputational damage.

Businesses in the financial services sector should take extra precautions to detect and prevent insider threats. These include thorough background checks and awareness programmes, rigorous implementation of access controls and segregation of duties to limit employees’ access to sensitive data, incident response plans and close monitoring of user activities and network traffic.

At Sentis, we offer staff security training to build cybersecurity vigilance among your workforce, raising awareness of security protocols and best practices. This is an integral part of building a security-conscious workplace culture and reducing the risk of serious incidents.


Conclusion and Action Plan

The world of cybersecurity is constantly changing, as attackers constantly try to find and exploit new security flaws. It’s especially important, given the potential for massive reputational damage and large fines in the event of security breaches, for financial services firms to keep on top of potential threats.

This is why a comprehensive cybersecurity action plan is essential to help financial services organisations to mitigate threats effectively and keep sensitive information safely under lock and key. This should encompass areas including risk assessment and management, governance, access control, data protection, incident response, third-party risk management and network security.

Finally, these action plans must be subject to continuous monitoring, review and improvement, taking emerging cybersecurity risks into account. This way, businesses in the financial services sector can maintain their vigilance against potential threats, uphold their reputation and reliability in the eyes of customers, and retain the confidence of other relevant stakeholders.

Sentis has many years of experience in helping financial sector organisations, and businesses across a range of other industries, bolster their cybersecurity and protect themselves from attacks. Contact us today to book a free IT audit.