Is the Finance sector equipped for the new breed of cyber-attacks?

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Financial services firms are being particularly targeted by scammers and hackers as they switch to home working. But are they ready to cope with these cybe threats?

A new era of remote working is taking hold across the UK, and the financial services sector is no exception. Huge numbers of non-branch staff have moved out of office spaces in the last year, and many of them are unlikely to return – at least not on a permanent basis.

But while this offers opportunities for businesses to reduce overheads such as expensive rental rates in key financial hubs like the City, it also presents new challenges. In particular, remote employees working without direct contact with colleagues and managers could be more susceptible to a range of cyber security threats.

Taking advantage of remote working

While many businesses will need to adapt to the security challenges remote working brings, financial services companies are set to be particularly at risk.

This is partly because the sensitive data they hold makes them a tempting target for hackers. For instance, research from Varonis shows the average financial services employee has access to nearly 11 million files, while two-thirds of companies have more than 1,000 sensitive files open to every employee.

What’s more, many firms in this sector have no great history of supporting home working, so may well be starting from scratch and with limited training – which can result in gaps in their defences.

For instance, one senior computer network manager for a global financial services company recently told BBC News his firm is seeing multiple hacking attacks every week, utilising a range of different techniques, with email and instant messaging attacks commonplace.

He said: “We see workers being tricked into downloading viruses from hackers demanding ransoms, and we have even had employees sent WhatsApp messages pretending to be from the CEO, asking for money transfers. Having staff working from home during the lockdowns has just made it worse, as it is much harder to keep an eye on everyone.”

Upgrading your email defences

It’s therefore essential that financial services firms take steps to protect their remote workers from these steps. And the best place to start is by toughening up email defences. The vast majority of attacks originate on this platform and, with more communications set to rely on these channels in an era of home working, they present new opportunities for hackers.

Traditional email antimalware tools may miss some of the more advanced attacks, so it’s a good idea to invest in solutions with technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. Unlike legacy gateway tools, which scan messages as they arrive, these sit in a user’s inbox and so can build up a better picture of what normal mail activity looks like.

Then, if anything unusual is spotted – such as a senior executive emailing an employee they don’t have regular contact with, or a colleague using phrases that are out of character, the message can be flagged. This system should also then be able to search proactively for similar emails in other inboxes throughout the business.

However, it’s important not to focus too strongly on this at the expense of other areas. For example, if contact centre staff or financial advisors are embracing tools like video chats to connect with customers, it’s essential they’re also able to use secure tools to remain in line with regulations and protect private conversations.

If you want to know more about the communications and collaboration technologies that will be essential if Financial services firms are to meet the challenges of today’s environment, get in touch with one of Arrow’s expert advisors today.

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