Cybersecurity In Banking: Understanding the Importance, Risk, and Solutions

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the banking sector had already begun its shift towards digitalisation. However, the pandemic accelerated this process, leading to a sudden increase in remote access, cloud-native technologies, and cashless transactions.

Today, the future of banking depends on embracing new-age technology and digital-first business models. Global digital transactions are projected to reach $6.7 billion in 2023. This shift towards digitalisation has allowed for enhanced customer experiences and new revenue streams for banks. However, it also increases the risk of data breaches and cyberattacks.

As per reports, 7.4% of targeted attacks in 2022 were directed at the Indian subcontinent. India has emerged as Asia's new hotspot for cyber-attacks, and the cyber intelligence firm attributes the rise in crime to increased digitalisation and online banking systems.

This highlights the importance of cybersecurity in banking as it becomes an increasingly critical aspect of the industry's future.

What is Cyber Security in Banking?

Cybersecurity in banking refers to the measures taken by financial institutions to protect their systems and networks from cyberattacks. With the increasing reliance on technology in the banking sector, the need for robust cybersecurity measures has never been greater.

Banks and financial institutions employ various tools and technologies designed to detect and prevent cyberattacks in the form of hacking, data breaches, identity theft, malware, viruses, and unauthorised access to networks and sensitive data.

Why is Cybersecurity Important in Banking?

The primary goal of cybersecurity in banking is to safeguard customer assets.

A cyber-attack on a bank can not only result in the loss of valuable information but can also disrupt the normal functioning of the bank, causing inconvenience to customers and potentially leading to financial losses.

Banks implement various cybersecurity measures to combat these threats, including firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and encryption. They also employ teams of security experts who monitor the network for suspicious activity and respond quickly to any potential threats.

Additionally, malicious attacks that target the customer’s wealth and personal information can also compromise the bank’s reputation and credibility, making cybersecurity measures crucial not only to ensure financial cybersecurity but also to protect the bank’s intangible assets, such as goodwill and brand equity.

Threats and Challenges to Cybersecurity in Banking

According to recent reports, Indian banks reported 248 data breaches from 2018 to 2022. The Government of India reported 11,60,000 cyberattack instances in 2022. The numbers are staggering and exponentially more than those of previous years.

Here’s a rundown of some of the biggest cybersecurity threats facing the banking industry today:

  • Phishing and Social Engineering

    These are among the most common cyberattack methods in financial sectors. Phishing aims to extract confidential information such as passwords and credit card numbers by posing as a reliable entity.

    Social engineering is a more significant financial cybersecurity threat involving technical subterfuge and highly targeted attacks to defraud users of their financial assets.

  • Malware and Ransomware

    Due to distributed networks and remote servers, banking malware and ransomware attacks are on the rise. They primarily target smaller banks with outdated technologies and cybersecurity protocols.

  • Cloud-based Attacks

    The cloud hosts a wealth of software and sensitive data. Although cloud migration is essential for modern banking services, attacks on cloud service providers and global outages can severely compromise security.

  • Supply Chain Attacks

    Supply chain attacks target a software vendor and corrupt products and updates across the entire chain with malicious code. These attacks enable the miscreants to hack into several customer networks.

  • Remote Access Risks

    Remote-working employees use multiple access methods and often work from locations that lack adequate cybersecurity. Moreover, digital-first customers access their accounts from mobile apps rather than physical banking locations. This increases the risk of data breaches and financial cybersecurity threats.

Addressing these vulnerabilities through awareness, education, and frontline security software is possible.

Effective Strategies for Enhancing Cybersecurity in Banking Institutions

Banking institutions must develop a comprehensive defence approach to cybercrime and focus on prevention rather than cure. Here are a few tools and best practices to ensure cybersecurity in banking:

  • Implementing a robust security framework:

    This includes developing a comprehensive security plan covering all aspects of the bank's operations, from network security to incident response. This plan should be based on industry standards and best practices, such as ISO 27001.

  • Conducting regular risk assessments:

    Banks should conduct regular risk assessments to identify potential vulnerabilities and threats to their systems and networks. This will help them prioritise their security efforts and protect the most critical assets.

  • Implementing multi-factor authentication:

    Banks should require multiple forms of authentication, such as a password, fingerprint, or a security token, to access sensitive information and systems. This makes it much harder for attackers to gain access.

  • Encrypting sensitive data:

    Banks should encrypt all sensitive data, both in transit and at rest, to protect it from unauthorised access.

  • Regularly monitoring and testing security systems:

    Banks should implement monitoring and testing tools to promptly detect and respond to security incidents. This includes regular penetration testing, vulnerability scanning, and security audits.

  • Employee training:

    Banks should provide regular training to their employees on how to identify and prevent security threats, as well as on the bank's security policies and procedures.

  • Maintaining an incident response plan:

    Regularly updating their incident response plan helps banks handle security breaches effectively.

  • Managing third-party vendors:

    Banks should have a thorough vendor evaluation program in place to ensure that third-party vendors comply with the bank's security standards.

  • Continuously monitoring and updating:

    Cybersecurity is a continuous process, and banking institutions should keep updating and monitoring their security systems and protocols to stay ahead of the threats.

  • Credit risk analytics:

    Credit risk data is a vital indicator of a potential client’s creditworthiness and reliability. Deploying risk analytics in banking is a critical way to boost security.

About CRIF

CRIF is a global company specialising in credit bureau and business information, outsourcing and processing services, credit solutions, and digital offerings. CRIF is ranked amongst the prestigious top 100 IDC Fintech Rankings. CRIF has a global presence, operating over four continents (Europe, America, Africa, and Asia).

With more than 10,500 financial institutions and 600 insurance companies, CRIF's services are used by more than 82,000 companies and 1,000,000 consumers. We are on a mission to create value and new opportunities for banks, financial institutions, utility companies, and other businesses eager to innovate and help them accelerate digital transformation.

At CRIF, we serve our clients with knowledge, commitment, and passion for helping them to grow together to the next level.

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