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HOW FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS CAN PROTECT THEIR ONLINE ACTIVITY FROM HACKERS

As working from home becomes the new normal, senior leaders of financial institutions need confidence that their company information will remain secure when employees are discussing work matters online.

A recent survey by PwC, as part of its Cyber Security Strategy 2021, found that 50% of UK organisations said cyber security would be baked into every business decision. The research, presented as an ‘urgent business priority’, highlighted how organisations will seek to improve their cyber resilience in 2021. Only 36% of the UK respondents said they were very confident that they were getting the best return on their cyber spend although 56% said they had plans to increase their cyber budgets in 2021.

When taken into consideration with a recent survey conducted by Forcepoint in partnership with WSJ Intelligence, which revealed that 71% of global CEOs said they were losing sleep over the prospect of their company’s next security breach, it comes as no surprise that effective cyber-security is high on the corporate agenda for 2021 and beyond.

So, what is the risk of a security breach when discussing sensitive and confidential financial reports, strategy and information in cyber space? How can organisations protect themselves against hackers and malicious threat actors?

Hackers listen in to conversations and can see and read data – information which can be very useful to a competitor, criminal or some other nefarious entity. If a hacker succeeds it can be hugely costly to the company which falls prey through a data breach fine, as well as being commercially damaging in terms of productivity and reputation.

Financial institutions must be acutely aware of the potential threats that hackers pose to their business and reputation, the security issues they need to consider when choosing an online video, calls, messaging and file sharing platform, as well as the practical measures they can take to protect their company and its interests.

The problem is real, and it’s one that is on the minds of those responsible for protecting not only internal company data, but also that of their complex chain of suppliers and clients. With the Forcepoint and WSJ Intelligence survey also revealing less than half (46%) regularly reviewed their cyber security strategy – coupled with more and more companies relying on video technology for remote working – the likelihood, and therefore the risk, of a security breach is significantly higher.

When it comes to technology to keep us connected, there are many different platforms available that those in the finance industry could use for remote working with some having been around for a long time, but how many of them are as secure as they need them to be? As hackers become increasingly sophisticated, it’s crucial companies check that the systems they use have moved with the times, and that they continue to review and improve the security of the technology they rely on to communicate.

Here are my top tips to consider when choosing a secure videoconferencing, calls, messaging and file-sharing platform to facilitate remote working for businesses in the finance industry:

 

Avoid allowing the use of ‘unofficial’ social media platforms

A simple step here is to have policies in place to insist your employees use systems approved by their employer, rather than using popular social media messaging platforms for business communications. These platforms are inherently risky and despite claims about encryption, are often compromised, providing a gateway to other data on your computer or mobile device.

 

Keep everything to one application

Use a supported enterprise system that meets true end-to-end Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 256-bit encryption. This might sound costly and overly ‘techy’, but in reality is very cost effective, especially when compared to the potential reputational and financial costs of a data breach.

Ideally, choose a system where all features are integrated within one application (app), so that messaging, calling, video conferencing and file sharing stays within one eco-system. As soon as users need to go ‘outside’ the system, the risk from hackers opens up.

 

Keep things simple

Remember, not all your employees will be tech experts. Staff productivity will benefit from having easy to use platforms that work in a similar way to those employees are used to using every day on their computers and mobile devices. Even better, look for a system that works on their own devices without the need to install sophisticated new software.

 

Invest in training

It is vital that companies working in the financial sphere implement cyber-security training for all its staff to make them aware of the risks and gain their buy-in for its online security policies. Consider extending this training to all companies and individuals in the supply chain, including contractors and clients. These interdependent supply chains can be undermined through ransomware attacks and service disruptions. Your company may have state of the art cyber-security, but if your interdependent supply chain doesn’t, then you have a weak link.

 

Consider the costs

Think about the cost in terms of productivity, reputational damage and even potential fines rising from data protection breaches. Do your homework before choosing a platform; where will your communication be routed? Where are the servers based? Are they trusted and do they directly support your business needs? Some systems offer features that are better suited for social use, but the development costs are often recovered through charging business users.

Aim for a system that is designed for your business needs and don’t pay for features you don’t need. Security standards can never be too high, and the system needs to have high fidelity in terms of video and audio quality. Go for a system that can be used via mobile devices and the web without having to be installed onto computers or local servers.

 

John Parkinson OBE is a former UK Police Chief and Senior National Counter Terrorism Coordinator. With broad experience as an international security consultant he is now president of US tech company Secured Communications, which recently launched its Mercury secure video conferencing, audio calling, messaging and file transfer platform in the UK.

 

Finance

FUTURE-PROOFING FOR THE FINTECH INDUSTRY WITH NETWORK INNOVATION

Alan Hayward, Sales & Marketing Manager at SEH Technology

 

As the years pass, it is becoming far more difficult to determine what the next decade will entail in relation to technology innovation, due to the speed of digital transformation. This means it is important for organisations to future-proof their processes in the best ways possible. Network management and innovation is key to this, particularly for the FinTech industry due to the ever-rising data traffic in that sector.

Financial technology is used to describe new tech that seeks to improve and automate the delivery and use of financial services. ​​​Essentially, FinTech has the ability to help companies, business owners and consumers better manage their financial operations and processes, meaning it’s vital to focus on future-proofing the industry to ensure guaranteed success across businesses.

Evolving technology is one of the primary causes for the shifts taking place in financial services across the whole industry. Emerging FinTech developments create opportunities which result in a rising demand for network capacity. As well as this, there are many other factors which play a part in fuelling this increased demand such as increased competition, innovative services, regulatory requirements and new technology. It’s vital that FinTech organisations innovate their networks to be sure they are staying ahead of the game.

 

The importance of innovating your network

Innovation in itself is very important and is at the centre of any successful business. Staying innovative and changing with economic and industrial trends helps organisations to effectively meet business growth goals, increase productivity and profitability, and respond well to industry disruptors. Upgrading your network and its capabilities is one of the key methods you can adopt to be sure to do this.

As industries change and companies grow, the technology that each company has implemented must change with it. Many organisations may find that they are in a position where much more data needs to be managed than it has in the past, or new manufacturing equipment has been implemented and data management processes have to change. Innovating your network can help solve these problems and can create much more streamlined processes with regards to managing and controlling data.

 

Changes in the FinTech industry

When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, the majority of businesses struggled to adjust to changes in the marketplace and had to work extra hard to stay afloat in their selective industries. There were a small handful of businesses which showed an upward trend and those in the FinTech industry were some of them. It’s vital that these businesses keep up the momentum as we move back to a sense of normality, even as digitisation takes over.

The financial sector is undergoing profound shifts with many insurers, retailers and global banks choosing to go digital, something which is extremely necessary in this day and age. Many FinTech organisations are considering a move to the cloud because of the immense role it can play in driving large amounts of data into the network. Smaller businesses and start-ups can take a more relaxed attitude towards adopting new networking technology but large, established banks don’t have that luxury and must act fast if they wish to stay relevant in the changing market.

Another area that FinTech businesses must be aware of is the limitation of bandwidth in the network. To be able to grow on demand, businesses must have already implemented an effective, reliable networking system which is compatible with the changes that a company is choosing to make.

 

Upgrading for the future 

For a small number of FinTech organisations, little appears to have changed in recent years. A small sized bank may have connections in a number of centres but to optimise this opportunity, businesses must invest in networking innovation to keep the company connected and to prepare for the future.

Production processes and organisations are constantly changing with new products, services and business models emerging in industries across the whole world, not just FinTech industries. It’s important to upgrade and innovate your network to allow your company to stay relevant and reduce the risk of it falling behind and becoming outdated with its processes as we enter the next decade of technological change.

Network innovation is the way forward for many industries, due to the capacity for the technology to adapt to changes in a company’s needs and goals. FinTech, as well as many other industries, should constantly consider how to prepare for the future, particularly during a time where business trends can change so quickly. Developing your network can not only provide a stronger sense of security and reliability for your company and its employees, but will also prepare you for problems which may arise in years to come.

 

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Technology

THE FINTECH REVOLUTION: BALANCING INNOVATION AND SECURITY

By Altaz Valani, Director of Insights Research at Security Compass.

At a time of significant disruption for the financial services industry, a sector forecasted to be worth $300bn by 2022, organisations are facing important decisions when it comes to digital transformation.

Among ever growing customer expectations and the need to comply with changes in the regulatory landscape, fintech companies are under increasing pressure to ensure innovation is properly implemented.

Failure to do so comes with a significant cost; that of security breaches and exposure to new vulnerabilities. From AI and biometric authentication to Robotic Process Automation, the growing adoption of technology among the financial services industry is intensifying the volume of customer data at risk.

Internal and external threats

To mange this risk carries both internal and external challenges for fintechs. Internally, the main challenges are centred around cyber skills, knowledge and expertise; externally, coordination with regulation is demanding.

Balancing an ever-increasing appetite for innovation and growth with robust security and risk management processes is absolutely crucial. Cyber threats continue to grow and diversify, and every new digital product and service carries an ever-evolving array of security risks.

Solving the cloud puzzle

Historically, due to the perceived value of the information held, the financial services industry is one of the primary targets for data breaches. This is why many financial services organisations have turned to the cloud as a solution for their IT infrastructure.

However, migrating to the cloud increases the attack surface of applications. That is why the importance of meeting security and compliance requirements cannot be overlooked in the rush for deploying new apps directly in the cloud or developing analytics-as-a-service or automation-as-a-service capabilities.

Strategically aligning digital delivery and security is one of the most complex challenges facing financial service businesses, and so many are turning their attention to Balanced Development Automation (BDA).

BDA: Aligning DevOps with security

To ensure success and competitive edge in the long run, fintechs need to create synergies between their DevOps, security, and business teams. This is where BDA comes in because it aligns DevOps with security, ensuring the latter is “baked” into the software development process. It acts as a guide through every step of software development, ensuring that security checks are built into the process from the beginning, and ultimately enabling DevOps teams to deliver secure products.

Consider it a three-step process:

1) Security should equip the development team with awareness of what is required from a security controls perspective. The same goes for risk and compliance. Developers need to know from the outset what these parameters are and factor them into their work from the get-go.

2) The next stage is examination of security metrics based on existing controls and emerging risks. The result of this might be the creation of new controls, but they have to be developed with an understanding of impact based on cost and business exposure. Ultimately, it is a business decision to determine the right risk threshold.

3) The third and final stage of the BDA process lies with governance at an audit and board level. Metrics collected from the first two stages are rolled into this and KPIs measured at this level are based on core business concerns around compliance, resilience, reputation, cost, and so on.

Balancing innovation with security

Ultimately, the success or failure of the fintechs of today can hinge on how they balance the adoption of new technologies with maintaining the privacy of their customers and the security of their customers’ data. This is a delicate balance, and one which requires action from the very start to identify and address risks.

Building security into applications from the very beginning of the software development lifecycle enables financial services companies to align security, compliance and risk priorities with business needs. This is ultimately a recipe for success.

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