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CYBER SECURITY WITHIN THE FINANCIAL SECTOR: HOW MUCH COULD A SECURITY BREACH COST YOUR COMPANY?

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In recent years, industries across the board have seen a major increase in data breach cases. Increased reliance on digital data have had a significant impact on the growing prevalence of cybercrime in the modern age. In this post, Steve Thomas, Finance and Project Based Accounting Expert at The Access Group, takes a look at cyber security within the financial services sector, and the potential costs businesses could face.

 

Data stored by any company is of critical importance for both employees and clients, ranging from confidential client information and emails, to orders and payment details. Loss of data can, therefore, result in significant negative repercussions for businesses of all sizes, and this can lead to business failure in some cases. Research shows that 60% of businesses closed operations within the six months following a cyber attack, and attacks of this type are particularly deadly to small and medium-sized businesses.

 

Security breaches are a major problem within the financial sector – mainly due to the sensitive nature of the data being stored – making all businesses in the sector susceptible to such criminal activity. Cyber attacks within this industry often involve attackers targeting backing systems and client accounts. The sensitive and confidential nature of this information means that a data breach can lead to catastrophic consequences for SMEs working in financial services.

 

This subject has gained significant traction within the last year. Data breaches reported by financial services firms to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) increased by 480% in 2018, with insurers, investment managers, pension and savings advisors seeing an increase in the number of data breach reports.

 

Research shows that investment banks are more likely to be targeted as victims of a data breach due to the common belief held by cyber criminals that their systems are less sophisticated than that of a retail bank.

 

2018 also saw a significant increase in reports of data breaches from insurers, consumer retail lending and retail investments, and figures show that British bank customers lost over £500m to financial fraud in just one recent six-month period.

 

The repercussions of a data breach in financial industries can be fatal. In a recent report published by the government’s Cyber Streetwise campaign and KPMG, 89% of SME victims disclosed that attacks impacted upon their reputation whilst 30% reported a loss of clients.

 

How can businesses be protected?

Cyber attacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated over time and security breaches continue to plague financial services, with 145 cases reported in 2018 alone. Although no business can completely protect itself from a data breach, certain strategies can be implemented to help prevent cybercrime from occurring.

 

For financial directors, it is vital to ensure that clients and staff are frequently informed about the risks of cybercrime, such as phishing attacks, password hacking and malware and viruses. Encouraging staff to question suspicious requests and ensure that all attacks are reported will help in preventing cyber attacks in the future.

 

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has produced a guide for SMEs which offers actionable advice and tips on a range of topics such as:

 

  • Configuring accounts to reduce the impact of successful attacks
  • Checking for obvious signs of phishing
  • Reporting all attacks
  • Keeping up to date with attackers

 

Damages and repercussions of cyber attacks in this industry

Currently, the average cost for businesses that have lost data or assets after a breach is £22,700 according to the latest Cyber Security Breaches Survey by the Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. For an SME, a loss of this amount could be extremely damaging to the business. Attacks of this type do not only affect the financial side of things, but these attacks subsequently impact business reputation, growth, and customer confidence.

 

The NCSC suggests that there’s around a 1 in 2 chance that SMEs will experience a security breach at some point. Therefore it is imperative that small businesses employ the correct security measurements in order to prevent an attack of this scale. By actively eliminating the risk of a security breach, thousands of pounds could be saved and invested back into the business.

 

£22,700 is a lot of money and could fund various assets such as 63 new Dell business desktop computers, 137 new office desks or even 19 years worth of cybersecurity protection. One thing is for sure, the costs of cyber security breaches can be substantial.

 

What would you spend £22,700 on?

 

 

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Finance

TECH TRENDS: THE FUTURE OF FINANCE IS DIGITAL

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Simon Bull, Sales Operations & Business Development Manager, Aqilla

 

Everywhere you look across the modern working environment, there is pressure to ‘digitally transform’ by using technology in areas where manual work and processes have previously been the preferred option. Despite growing momentum in general, progress across the finance function has been somewhat slower than other core areas of business, not least because it is highly regulated and teams must exercise caution to ensure introducing change does not also introduce risk.

One familiar scenario is the approach finance departments take to storing data, particularly any sensitive information, on their own premises and their own hardware. While keeping valuable assets such as this close to hand offers a strong sense of security and control, it illustrates the limitations finance teams face in changing traditional approaches and, as a result, the relatively slow pace of technology-focused innovation overall.

However, the case to embrace tech-led change is becoming irresistible, with businesses everywhere highlighting a huge range of digital transformation benefits, from cost savings and technology performance to IT security and compliance. In the current environment, many finance teams have also experienced first hand the impact of digital transformation, with remote working bringing new technologies and digital services into focus.

Simon Bull

But, where are we heading? As digital transformation gains momentum across the finance function, where should teams be looking for opportunities to update manual processes or to replace outdated technologies? And where might the trends at the heart of this movement – such as cloud computing – have the biggest impact on the day-to-day experience of finance professionals?

The role of cloud computing raises a key point. For finance teams, digital transformation also requires a change of mindset, perhaps best illustrated by a willingness to move away from outdated in-house technology infrastructure and software products to flexible and more financially efficient cloud-based services. In doing so, it becomes possible to focus on opportunities and priorities:

 

Cost savings

One of the most important is the cost of technology. The cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) approach that can offer users the convenience of a monthly pay-as-you-go payment model for a range of key technologies, such as accounting software. This is in contrast to traditional IT procurement models where businesses have to invest significant sums in one-off software purchases. What’s more, because SaaS users typically only need access to a laptop and internet connectivity to use cloud-based applications, it also saves money on the server hardware that has previously sat in the corner of the office, and in fact, it may no longer be needed at all. In selecting cloud-based finance software services, organisations should always compare pricing from several providers to make sure they are getting the most competitive deal.

 

Technology Performance

Today’s cloud-based finance software solutions are available with a growing range of options, starting with simple, entry-level functionality to the opposite end of the scale to products offering powerful performance designed to fit the needs of even the biggest and most complex finance departments. Important features and functions to look out for should include: extensive analysis, proper periodic management and business calendars, multi-currency, multilingual and multi-company operation, full VAT handling International coding, tax and language flexibility, automatic reconciliation / bank integration, built-in key performance measurement, advanced search, selection and drill-down, document and image scanning.

 

Stronger security

Many cloud providers now have security at the top of their list of capabilities, but checking their accreditations, policies and security track record should always form part of any selection process. This should include areas such as data protection, backup services and their ability to deal with common security issues, such as ransomware.

 

Service standards

When looking at cloud service providers, finance teams should also focus on the quality of service on offer. At its best, cloud-based customer support and service can deliver an outstanding experience where the provider really feels like an extension of the in-house IT Team. The best way to check on the service capabilities of any cloud provider is to ask for references from existing customers, check online reviews and evaluate their Service Level Agreement (SLA) to understand the small print of any terms and their impact on service levels.

 

Compliance

Compliance is front of mind across the finance function and is an area where the specialisation offered by many cloud software solutions can be of huge benefit. Even for the most niche requirements, there is often a software provider out there who has a solution designed to meet very specific needs, and in embracing these technologies, the efficiency and accuracy benefits can be truly transformational.

The challenges seen across the economy over the past 12 months have significantly accelerated the pace of technology-led change, finance teams included. But, cloud-based finance software services can help teams to widen their approach to innovation, embrace the flexibility offered by remote working on a permanent basis and deliver a range of operational and customer-focused benefits for the long term.

 

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Technology

THE INSURANCE SECTOR IS BEING DIGITALLY DISRUPTED: BUT IS IT READY?

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The insurance sector is being disrupted by innovative technologies that are helping to drive digital transformation within the industry. The global Covid-19 pandemic forced the sector to temporarily let go of traditional working models and implement remote working approaches so that employees continued supporting customers while at home.

The move to remote working has encouraged legacy insurance companies to rethink and digitise services to keep up with challenger Insurtech brands. As they continue to pick up pace, traditional insurance businesses are keeping their eyes firmly on the prize, using technology trends such as IT consumerisation, AI and IoT, to spur new creative offerings. But are they ready for a permanent change?

 

Facing up to challenges

While insurers tapped into innovative emerging technology trends to create new services for customers and improve employee experience, there continues to be residual pushback. In a recent risk management study by Deloitte, more than two-thirds of individuals believed the use of emerging technologies, such as big data and analytics, could dramatically increase performance in their organisations. Yet just 29% of organisations are deploying these tools.

To remain agile, the insurance industry will need to find ways to address this gap in 2021. According to Gartner, barriers ‘often have little to do with how different a technology is.’ They stem from low employee utilisation, a lack of visibility into technology investments and regulatory red tape.

 

Improving technology adoption 

A common challenge to adopting emerging technologies is the lack of skill and familiarity in using new tools – not the tool itself. As insurers look to change their working approaches following the pandemic, they should give employees the devices they are most familiar with to remain productive in their new working environments. According to PWC, 78% of millennials believe having access to the technology they like at work makes them more effective. Not only does this save on time but employee-choice programs will also create new benefits such as increased employee engagement, retention and recruitment.

IT consumerisation has enabled the most loved technology providers, such as Apple, to support employees as well as businesses. The influx of Apple’s iPhone, Mac and iPad is directly influencing business productivity as there are now more than 235,000 business apps available in Apple’s App Store, according to Strategy Analytics.

IT teams will save precious time and effort by utilising the existing built-in native apps that support businesses. For example, Apple Business Manager provides zero-touch deployment and configuration for thousands of employee devices. Teamed with an Apple Enterprise Management platform,  IT can remotely personalise each device with the tools that employees need to deliver work more efficiently such as claims and data-entry processing.

The insurance sector should also utilise existing advice channels and resources to get best practice advice. Apple is one of the few providers to have created a hand-picked task force of partners in mobile strategy, app development and back-end system integration, that businesses can call upon to maximise their Apple hardware, software and service investments.

 

It’s all about balance

The need for improved underwriting efficiency and data quality within the insurance world has meant insurers must find ways to be both operationally fast and water-tight in managing confidential customer information in 2021. Errors result in breaches, heavy fines, loss of customer trust, reputational damage and even jail sentences.

IT must have a single-pane view of all devices to reduce the risk of a breach and manage hundreds of devices, each with its own personalised inventory of apps. An enterprise management solution enables IT to manage data access by delivering specific permissions to apps, files and tools for the employee to remain productive.

 

Cut the red tape

Regulatory red tape is a barrier to the adoption of emerging technology. Businesses do not want to lose valuable time and effort in introducing new technologies that need to be assessed and measured against the latest compliance requirements. To encourage businesses to find new ways of working and remain secure, the Centre for Internet Security (CIS) has created a set of 20 security controls to follow. Commonly known as the CIS 20 standard, the controls help businesses walk through recommended steps such as updating software, logging and auditing, managing user environments and system access.

Since employee experience is paramount to the successful adoption of emerging technology, Apple Enterprise Management platform solutions make the roll-out of comprehensive compliance and benchmark requirements simple and less intrusive. With a few clicks, the IT team can confirm each device adheres to the security standards and remains compliant at any time. Dated software can be updated by employees and the IT team can ensure the most sensitive information is protected with the latest versions and updates. When regulations change, insurers can add in and deploy new requirements through the platform without wasting time.

 

Long-term benefits

Insurers around the world experienced a surge in motor, home and consumer goods claims during the first wave of the pandemic as more people relied on and invested in personal transportation and online shopping.  According to KPMG, UK insurers also offered free motor and enhanced home cover for National Health Service (NHS) workers, and extended business cover to support employees working from home. As customer support lines collapsed under the sheer volume of calls, the insurance sector went online to reserve phone communication for the most urgent.

Consumer demand for accessible innovative new services will continue to be a key focus for many in the sector who need to make up for the lost time. This is where remaining agile will be imperative or insurers will find themselves losing out to the competition.

Digital services, made possible through AI, IoT and data analytics, deliver instantaneous, richer, and more meaningful insights for insurers to create unique and personalised covers. They enable employees to produce results quickly and draw in new revenue streams, without the need to rip-and-replace existing technology.

Through the provisioning of local user accounts and simple password synchronisation of cloud services, insurers will help employees achieve multi-factor authentication and single sign-on. A single set of cloud identity credentials reduces disruption in creating new passwords requests and empowers employees to tap into new tools more quickly.

 

Looking into the future

The 2020 world health crisis drove many businesses, including the insurance sector, to work remotely to survive. And while the road to recovery will take time, it has encouraged them to re-evaluate their long-term working environments and investments to remain agile. Despite uncertainties, businesses are now looking to create hybrid working environments where they can occasionally untether from the office as a way to continue improved experience and productivity levels. A recent report by PwC suggests that splitting time between the office and home is expected to become the new normal.

Why go back to the way things were when there are more benefits to be had in this new normal? Through an enterprise management platform and native productivity apps, it’ll be a win-win situation where employees remain positive, IT ensures its technology investments are fully utilised, and the business remains protected, reaping the benefits of new services and improved engagement with employees and customers alike.

 

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