Jonathan Clarke, Content Marketing Manager at BeyondTrust
Given how lucrative and vital finance companies are to the UK economy, it’s no surprise that cyber criminals are trying their luck at infiltrating these organisations, stealing sensitive information, and causing havoc. In fact, the Financial Conduct Authority has revealed that the number of declared cyber-incidents in the UK finance sector has risen by more than 1000% since last year.
The evidence is rife too – earlier this year, Metro Bank became another victim that was added to the list of cyber-attacks, after hackers were able to intercept a telecommunications vulnerability, affecting on a few customers however. Not as lucky was Tesco Bank, which was subjected to a £16.4 million fine when a staggering £2.26 million was stolen from customers’ personal current accounts.
Despite such high-profile attacks being reported within the financial sector, businesses are still failing to implement robust cybersecurity policies. And, amid today’s advanced threat landscape, it is usually a case of ‘when’ and not ‘if’ a firm is breached. Many financial firms are still just trying to get the basics right, have old IT systems in place and do not carry out regular cyber-assessments.
What’s the problem?
It’s evident the industry needs to boost and improve its defence against malicious attackers, but first, it’s important to pinpoint where the issues are coming from. From the BeyondTrust 2019 Privileged Access Threat Report, 58% of organisations believe it is likely they have suffered a breach due to vendor access, and 64% say employees were a cause of the breaches – of which financial organisations are included. Indeed, most organisations in and out of the financial industry are having a difficult time managing privileged insiders and third-party vendors, in fact, almost half still use manual processes to control privileged identities, which simply isn’t scalable.
What’s the solution?
In light of these findings, employee error needs to be minimised, and should it happen, the ramifications need to be promptly dealt with effectively.
The weakest link in an organisation, often starts with employees. Usually ranging from their poor password hygiene, to being targeted by phishing emails. And, unfortunately, by giving employees administrator rights, this puts systems and data in the firing line for hackers. So, it’s paramount to tackle this issue at its root.
Indeed, productivity issues arise when limiting user rights – IT help desks can often be inundated with requests to grant access to basic systems or files. As such, the balance between security and productivity, specifically within a fast-paced, high growth environment like the finance sector, always seems to be a trade-off.
So, how can this be remedied? By removing unnecessary admin rights and giving users just enough access to do their jobs productively, organisations can significantly reduce the attack surface. To achieve this, Privileged Access Management (PAM) can be implemented. Three features of an effective PAM solution include:
- Lock down and control credentials: Find, manage, and monitor privileged accounts/assets, and automate privileged password and session management.
- Remove excessive end-user privileges: Control and monitor privileged activity on Windows, Mac, Unix, Linux, and network devices, remove excessive privileges without impacting productivity, and enforce granular application control.
- Protect internal and vendor remote access: Secure, manage, and audit remote access from third-party vendors and internal employees with privileges, such as the service desk.
When organisations have fully integrated PAM tools, they are more confident to identify threats from employees with privileged access. With control and visibility over their entire environment, organisations can significantly reduce the likelihood that they become a victim of a breach, while allowing their employees to remain fulfilled and productive at work.
HOW TO MANAGE YOUR CASH FLOW IN UNCERTAIN TIMES
While the world is constantly changing, probably at a faster pace now than ever before, businesses need to manage cash flow and costs to drive success in uncertain times, says Matthew Thorpe, partner at Haines Watts Essex.
Managing people and expenses
There are certain costs that you just can’t avoid as a business – to keep your operation running seamlessly, but scrutinise the detail and cut down on any non-essential expenses. Check things like your SaaS subscriptions and look out for costs that auto-renew and if you do cancel, remember to also cancel your direct debits too.
You might want to put a freeze on hiring new people, but ensure that other roles and responsibilities are clearly and efficiently assigned across your team. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) has been introduced by the Government to help UK employers access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary to avoid redundancies. Affected employees are classed as “furloughed workers”.
Once furloughed, the employee cannot work or they will not qualify for the scheme. For businesses that perhaps need to go further, there may be some roles they don’t need any more, but businesses should work sensitively with people to manage this.
Cash is king
In uncertain times, owner managers will need to keep operations going to ensure financial stability. You should look to manage debt more efficiently by negotiating extended payment terms with creditors. You could also renegotiate loans for longer repayment terms to give yourself a lower monthly payment, helping the business to set some cash aside each month.
As a business owner, you need to create a cash flow projection and update this regularly if you are to improve things. You can do this using financial information to create a picture of how the business will look in the next 12 months. The forecast needs to show revenue sources and expenses, which will show the ups and downs of business income and can be used to make sure that enough finance is in place.
While banks and other finance providers recognise that the cashflow of a business may be disrupted by the impact of Covid-19, they are still going to want to see that you are viable and continue to trade in these uncertain times. Make sure your business is organised and don’t let disorganisation cause unnecessary issues. You can evidence this by having detailed forecasts; current order books and projections (as best as possible).
Having instantly accessible, accurate financial information allows you to plan effectively, spot issues before they become problems and manage your money in the most efficient and rewarding way.
Software is now incredibly user-friendly and accessible from anywhere. For a business owner embracing the technology, this means:
- Invoicing can be done instantly when a job is complete, emailed to the customer with an easy to use link to a payment platform.
- Comparison websites can automatically monitor and help maintain lowest cost for things such as light & heat, insurance etc.
- Technology can be used in place of face-to-face meetings. It can also enable them to adapt production lines to different demands.
All of these things and more, used properly, can make managing your business finances quicker, easier and often cheaper. You will also be able to bring clarity to where your business stands and prepare for the next steps.
HOW FINANCIAL SERVICES CAN GET TO GRIPS WITH RISING SUPPLY CHAIN RISK
By Alex Saric, smart procurement expert, Ivalua
UK businesses have never been more dependent on their suppliers to help them deliver goods and services to their customers. Be it retail, manufacturing or financial services, suppliers have a vital role to play when it comes to innovation and meeting customer expectations. However, as supply chains become increasingly global, businesses are potentially exposing themselves to more risk than ever before.
This is especially true in financial services. Whether it’s the impact of geopolitical events like Brexit or global tariff wars, supply shortages, security or the businesses impact on the environment, an organisation’s failure to identify and mitigate risk could see millions wiped off its share price, and its corporate reputation left in tatters. Risk can present itself anywhere and at any time, so financial services firms must be ready to address it. However, many simply don’t have the ability to evaluate suppliers for risk factors, leaving them wide open to business operations being hindered, or being slapped with financial penalties.
More suppliers, increasing risk
One reason why financial services firms aren’t able to evaluate suppliers is the breadth and scale of today’s supply chains. For example, French oil company Total said in in a recent human rights briefing paper that they work with over 150,000 direct suppliers worldwide. This is just one example of how large and varied the roster of partners has become. Research from Ivalua has found that financial services businesses on average are working with around 3,600 suppliers annually, which is evenly split between UK-based and international partners. That number is expected to rise, with 60% expecting the number of suppliers they work with to rise.
The expanding nature of suppliers is only going to expose financial services firms to more potential risk than ever before, yet 78% say they face challenges gaining complete visibility into suppliers and their activities.
A lack of supplier visibility leaves businesses unable to identify and mitigate against supply chain risk. In fact, almost three-quarters (73%) of financial services firms have experienced some type of risk during the last 12 months. These include; supplier failure (43%), environmental impact, such as pollution or waste (35%) and supply shortages (45%). Supply shortages can be among the most damaging to a business, as seen by both the KFC chicken shortage which closed stores, and the summer 2018 CO2 shortage which caused companies such as Heineken and Coca-Cola to pause production, impacting supply across Europe during the World Cup.
Businesses unprepared for the worst
One way financial services firms can better prepare for risk is to ensure they know what to plan for to reduce the impact. However, whilst some say they have a contingency plan in place to deal with risk, many of them are unprepared. Financial services firms admitted to not having comprehensive and deployed contingency plans in place to prepare the supply chain for risk such as; natural disasters (68%), supply shortages (67%), geopolitical changes (65%), environmental impact (63%), supplier failure (62%) and modern slavery (50%).
In order to effectively prepare for these types of risks, it’s vital that financial services businesses fully understand their suppliers, their business environment, global variations in regulations, geopolitics, and a host of other factors. But for many, there are multiple challenges when it comes to gaining this understanding. A prevailing factor is an inability to gain visibility into all suppliers and activity because supplier management data is stored in multiple locations and formats, making insights difficult to access. This leaves teams unable to review supplier activity and assess compliance.
Making supplier management smarter
It’s imperative that financial services businesses are able to respond or prepare for supply chain risk. Clearly, much more needs to be done to ensure they have complete visibility of suppliers, especially in an era where regulators can levy heavy fines for GDPR breaches and scandals spread in minutes over social media. These types of risks can be reduced in the future if procurement teams have a 360-degree view of suppliers which will help with contingency planning and risk management.
For example, in the instance of supply shortages, plans could be put in place that identify alternative suppliers to ensure any shortages do not impact end users. This type of supplier collaboration is paramount when it comes to managing and mitigating against supplier shortages. When it comes to regulations, financial services firms can’t allow a lack of visibility to limit their ability to ensure all suppliers are compliant.
To do this, teams must take a smarter approach to procurement that gives complete visibility into suppliers throughout the supply chain. This will allow financial services firms to identify and plan for risk, reducing the potential damage, and ensuring they are working with and awarding business to low-risk suppliers. Supply chain risk is rapidly becoming an overarching concern for financial services firms, but by providing the ability to assess suppliers, they will have all the insights they need to mitigate the impact on business operations.
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