Making cybersecurity a cornerstone of digital transformation

These days, financial institutions have a great deal more to manage than their customers’ money. They must also manage their customers’ personally identifiable information safely and in accordance with an increasing number of regulations — data that makes this sector attractive and therefore more susceptible to cybercriminal attention.

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Michael Brown, field CISO for financial services, Fortinet

In addition, if a company doesn’t uphold security standards in accordance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, it could completely lose its ability to process credit card payments.

The potential attack surface grows as financial institutions step up their digital operations. A possible vulnerability exists with every work-from-anywhere (WFA) login, service integration and mobile app. As an illustration, many American banks were handed a combined $1.8 billion penalty last year because staff members were using personal messaging apps for work-related purposes.

Financial institutions require complete cybersecurity solutions that include WFA capabilities, secure networking for branch locations and next-generation firewalls in order to adapt to the current regulatory and threat landscape. These solutions must provide advanced threat prevention from the data center to the endpoint to the edge.

Real-world impacts of insufficient cybersecurity

We’ve seen it time and time again — cyberattacks can cause significant and, sometimes, irreparable harm. The concrete repercussions of insufficient cybersecurity can have a lasting impact and a ripple effect.

These include:

  • Data loss — Financial services organizations hold very sensitive and proprietary information that you don’t want bad actors getting their hands on, whether it’s investment portfolio information or customers’ personally identifiable information like passwords and Social Security numbers.
  • Operational outages — Security teams typically need to identify the attack’s origin and assess the extent of the damage. And when a distributed denial-of-service attack occurs, the intention is to halt business as usual. Both scenarios result in a loss of productivity, both internally and externally. Customers are unable to access their money and employees can’t do their jobs.
  • Fines — In some cases, a company may receive penalties from several regulators for a single incident. The Securities and Exchange Commission and the New York State Department of Financial Services have fined companies for issues like inadequate disclosure controls and cybersecurity-related procedures.

Additionally, if the penalty includes revoking licenses or charters that you need to operate, one of your business lines or even the entire company could be shut down for noncompliance.

Reputational damage — It can be quite challenging to bounce back once an organization has shown that it is unable to protect the personal information of its customers. For instance, years after the initial occurrence, the Equifax breach remains a cautionary tale.

Bolstering strategy with the right features

To ensure proactive regulatory and cybersecurity compliance, a well-managed solution from a reputable cybersecurity provider can make all the difference. When choosing a solution, financial organizations should consider these aspects:

  • Cloud capabilities — Due to the prevalence of multi-cloud and hybrid cloud networks, many financial services companies need to collaborate with cybersecurity suppliers that provide products that can operate natively in both public and private cloud settings. To provide uniform policy enforcement, the solutions must perform smoothly across on-premises networks and cloud environments. Organizations should choose a cybersecurity provider with a history of innovation and scalable, accessible and safe security solutions.
  • AI/ML and automation — Every day, new cybersecurity risks surface and bad actors are increasingly leveraging artificial intelligence, machine learning and automation. Likewise, these technologies should be part of the arsenal for defending against cyberattacks. Automation can help increase accuracy and decrease human error. Many cybersecurity suppliers employ point solutions to patch vulnerabilities.
  • Seamless customer experience — For customers to be unaware that the cybersecurity solution is operating in the background, it must be seamless. The solution must operate with the current architecture without placing an excessive load on the network. Seconds count; if a customer can’t connect right away, they might go elsewhere for their business.
  • Adaptability — Every milestone on the digital transformation journey should involve cybersecurity. Businesses require adaptable cybersecurity solutions when they change their focus and enter cross-industry disciplines. Financial firms require dependable cybersecurity solutions when the core elements of the business shift or the network grows in unanticipated ways.

Transform safely

Even as financial service organizations strive to better serve their customers via digital transformation, they are facing more — and more sophisticated — threats. As data multiplies with frightening speed, organizations must keep that data secure and compliant. If not, fines and loss of reputation and even the whole business can result. Consider the best practices noted above when vetting cybersecurity providers to ensure a safe and compliant business foundation.

Michael Brown, field CISO for financial services at Fortinet, is a global security evangelist and advisor, helping financial services firms implement digital transformation while enhancing security and resilience. He specializes in cybersecurity regulations, ESG impact, SD-WAN, SD-Branch, Zero Trust, low-latency electronic trading security, SASE, and multi-cloud solutions.