John Wetzel, Program Manager at Recorded Future
Insider threat is a complex problem requiring the fusion of security teams, business operational teams, and technology, to adequately address. Current strategies to mitigate the risks from insiders tend to focus solely on activity inside the network, but behaviours are easily misjudged and the risk from noisy alerts is high.
The financial services industry is increasingly susceptible to the insider threat yet not enough financial services organisations use third-party threat intelligence, and if they do, they agree that intelligence sharing on security threats within the industry really needs to improve.
Why is the financial services industry threatened?
Recent developments in the techniques of threat actors have seen them begin to solicit and recruit insiders on the dark web. Insiders are also advertising their access to the networks and infrastructure of banking or financial service companies.
Criminal actors recognise insiders as a rich source of both sensitive access and valuable knowledge across industries. Examples of finance insiders advertising their access in criminal forums and dark web marketplaces have also been uncovered.
Insider threat – what exactly do we mean?
Any examination of the risk posed by an insider needs to start with defining the threat. To do this effectively it’s important that we eliminate the psychological distance we place between “normal” employees and insiders. It is unlikely for insiders to join an organisation with malicious intent, but motivations to act maliciously will likely increase over time or in the wake of a compelling event. Beyond the careless user who poses a risk due to their negligence, insiders may be motivated by money, ego, or conflicting ideology. In some cases, employees may be being coerced or blackmailed by malicious outsiders.
While it is impossible to exactly profile the motives and methods of every insider that threatens an organisation, to help understand the likely risks they pose we can broadly assign them three categories: negligent; exploited; and malicious.
Employees that may accidentally move or edit corporate data or unwittingly share sensitive information fall into the ‘negligent’ category.
The ‘exploited’ category are insiders who are used by an external threat actor to find their way into the corporate network, usually via phishing or malware.
Furthermore, individuals who act to deliberately access and exfiltrate critical company information belong in the ‘malicious’ category.
What risks are involved?
Just as criminal actors use betrayal, employees or contractors may seek out criminal actors to help them with the transmission, purchase, or sale of corporate assets and data. While the operational act of goods for money is often conducted via private means, it is possible to identify various indications of insider threat.
The biggest risk associated with uncovering these kinds of indications is to concentrate effort on unproductive sources of intelligence. This issue arises as organisations tend to treat insiders as solely a security problem, which can limit their perspective on external resources. Typically, many businesses will focus first on costly internal detection methods, then monitor external sources only for perceived signs of risk, such as negative sentiment in social media posts.
There are three potential reasons why current approaches are challenging for businesses:
- Behavioural monitoring is expensive, particularly when you consider how scarce insider threat activity is in comparison to other cyber threats.
- Insider threat systems generate significant noise in general, particularly when targeting high-noise sources. Social media is a high-noise source and does not always provide the best means for insider threat detection and analysis.
- The insider threat program itself may become a cause of discontent amongst employees. Exposure of monitoring programs, such as social media monitoring and reporting on employee behaviour, risks creating an enmity between the organisation’s security policies and an employee’s privacy. Increased employee disenfranchisement can ultimately contribute to potential insider activity.
Examples of threats to financial services
Most of the news coverage around insider threats in the financial services industry highlights the risk from espionage and large-scale financial theft. One example is that in February 2016, the Bank of Bangladesh issued a statement that criminal hackers had stolen the equivalent of over $86 million. The criminals sent forged SWIFT messages, most likely by using custom malware and insider information, to withdraw funds from the bank’s account at the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank. In total, the hackers attempted to steal over $1.1 billion.
What can the industry do to protect against these threats?
An effective way of combating the insider threat is to acquire a solution which provides valuable monitoring, investigative, and contextual reporting in real time yet, at the same time, requiring few resources to maintain. External threat intelligence is a great fit for this. Empowering network monitoring solutions, such as data loss prevention (DLP) and user and entity behaviour analytics (UEBA) with external intelligence on external actor behaviours can enhance and enrich insider threat discovery and investigative efforts.
Threat intelligence surfaces relevant sources of information for analysts to rapidly identify potential insider activity. These indications alert the security analyst to research and, if necessary, escalate the incident for further investigation. Threat intelligence can assist in monitoring for insider threat indications in the following areas:
- Posted advertisements or solicitations on criminal forums and dark web
- Proprietary information on sensitive sources
- Proprietary assets or information on public code repositories
- Employee PII or databases for sale
A final note
The insider threat is undoubtedly a top current security risk at the moment. Once solely the concern of government and defence organisations, financial services firms are now seeing an increase in the threat. If they haven’t already, now is the time for finance organisations to ensure they are adequately prepared for and protected against the insider threat.
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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