Four cybersecurity best practices for community banks

Malware and data breaches are the primary methods of cyberattack, and incident costs continue to rise. Targets for cybercriminals are chosen based on two conditions: Impact and profit. Financial institutions meet both requirements while offering various profit paths through theft, fraud, multi-channel extortion, and ideological impact. Security Magazine reports that 75 percent of data breaches in 2019 were within the financial services industry.

To avoid becoming another victimized financial institution, below are four cybersecurity best practices for you to safeguard your business:

  1. Mitigate risk associated with third-party vendors: Financial institutions rely heavily on third-party IT vendors to facilitate operations and extend new service offerings and ways of engaging new customers. While customer-facing services appear seamless under a united banking brand, operations are composed of multiple organizations of varying security capabilities. A failure or compromise in one of the links of the vendor chain leads to reputational damage to the bank’s brand rather than the invisible vendor behind the curtain. In other words, the cybersecurity risk resides with the bank. 

The ever-evolving cyber-threat landscape, daily publication of vendor vulnerabilities, and growing compliance demands make vendor management challenging. Here are a few essential guidelines: 

To minimize third-party risk:

Conduct a risk assessment and establish minimum security guidelines with each partner.

Limit vendor access to crucial assets. For example, marketing services should access customer contact information, not core banking data.

Communicate your compliance requirements and align security programs to protect your customers.

Establish security event and incident protocols and notification requirements.

Monitor your network using threat detection and automated solutions.

  1. Stay up-to-date with data compliance regulations: Data compliance is constantly evolving in response to emerging threats, and the financial sector is not immune to this change. Keeping up with the latest regulations is essential to ensure credibility and avoid costly investigations and penalties. The goal is to be compliant, regardless of the industry’s ever-changing regulatory landscape. Shifting this burden from your internal team to a third-party vendor can help ensure your financial institution achieves compliance. Regardless of company size, data breaches snowball into complicated situations. They can cripple an organization and end in legal proceedings or disputes that take years to resolve.
  2. Make your employees part of your cyber defenses: The majority of data breaches or massive ransomware outages start with social engineering and clever phishing campaigns. Implementing a proactive defense program provides context and the skills to identify suspicious communications and emails before your employees become unwitting accomplices by clicking dangerous links or downloading infected documents. 

Like cyber threats, IT threat awareness training must evolve. Security training should be about empowering employees, not punishing them. This training does not identify the “Ten Commandments of IT,” but helps employees understand how criminals target them and how to identify their calling cards. Covering multiple forms of campaigns like texting and fake IT calls is important, but phishing remains the primary attack vector for cybercriminals. Phishing attacks are a top concern for IT decision-makers, so training employees should be at the top of the priority list.

  1. Implement continuous cyber threat monitoring: In 2016, a cybercriminal wired themselves $81 million in a Bangladesh Bank heist, using the SWIFT banking network in only a couple of hours. This is a perfect example of how imperative it is to have 24/7 surveillance across your entire IT landscape. The quicker you can identify and eliminate a potential security threat, the better off you will be in the long run — early detection is essential. 

Financial institutions typically use a 24/7 security operations center service to enhance threat detection and response times by continuously scanning your network and host for vulnerabilities. Hiring third-party experts is the most cost-effective solution for securing customers and their transactions. When financial institutions carry the heavy burden of protecting their clients, it is best to proactively work with managed security services built to discover threats and command action. 

Brittany Demendi is a cybersecurity content specialist at Adlumin. To learn more, contact Krystal Rennie at (202) 352-8001 or [email protected]