Vulnerability in Cybersecurity: Is Your Investment Firm Protected?
As you have probably heard, a number of international organizations have become victims of cyber hacking in recent years.
You may remember the names of firms such as DLA Piper and Mossack Fonseca for being under international scrutiny after falling victim to malicious, highly damaging cyberattacks. WannaCry and Equifax are still filling headlines.
Firms must invest time and money if they are to keep up with new cybersecurity threats in the landscape and update defense practices accordingly.
Does Your Firm Have a Cybersecurity Vulnerability?
In short, the answer is yes. Anyone can have security vulnerability these days. Building a proper human firewall, incident response plan, and ensuring your files are backed up can mitigate the risks of a cyberattack.
One way to reduce your firm’s technology risk is to add layers of redundancy throughout your infrastructure. Whether you’re utilizing a cloud infrastructure or an on-premise environment, your servers, networking and telecom lines should feature N+1 availability, a configuration in which multiple components have at least one independent backup component to ensure system functionality continues in the event of failure.
In addition to physical security improvements to infrastructure, you also need to protect your individual computer connections and their operators, who are uniquely vulnerable to attack.
Computer system vulnerability vs. cyber threatA computer system vulnerability is an existing, internal flaw or weakness in a system or network. They aren't caused by an attacker, but they can be leveraged, exploited or manipulated by a hacker to damage the system or extract data. Vulnerabilities can be caused by basic flaws in an individual program, or by unanticipated interactions between different system components or software programs.
A cyber threat typically involves an outside element, and often leans on social engineering to find a way into a system or network, to plant malware, steal data or access files without authorization. While a vulnerability may be exploited to interrupt business operations, a cyber threat often involves stealing sensitive data and potentially holding it for ransom.
What type of data are hackers after when they attack investment firms?Hackers infiltrate corporate technology environments for a variety of reasons. In the retail arena, the perpetrator may be seeking customer data such as credit card information or Social Security numbers.
In the investment industry, it is more likely that the attack vector is focused on plans to steal information on a firm’s intellectual property, such as business plans, trading programs, market forecasts and investment strategies.
Security vulnerability and security threat examplesHackers are getting smarter. To gain access to the data, hackers may employ a number of different infiltration tactics such as:
PhishingThere are many ways hackers can use social engineering and phishing emails to instigate a data breach.
In a spear phishing attack, email systems can be hacked such that the perpetrator is able to view confidential messages being sent between employees internally. He or she may also attempt to interrupt internet connectivity or tamper with important business applications.
Phishing attacks may include attempts to get an employee to take action by creating a scene of urgency while masquerading as someone in senior management. They may try to get an employee to share a login, send a money wire, or open a door for the hacker to exploit deeper computer security vulnerabilities. If you don't take security threats seriously, any of the following can be a danger to your firm.
MalwareNew malware is created to the tune of hundreds of thousands of new files daily, often building on older, successful files that have been recognized and stopped, by just changing them enough to get by defenders’ antivirus programs and wreak more damage.
There are three main types of malware:
Ransomware is a malicious software that encrypts data storage drives, making them inaccessible to your firm. Then you’ll typically get a ransom demand. The ultimatum will ask for a sizeable sum in payment in return for the encryption key, and if you don’t comply your data will either be destroyed or publicly released, causing a severe breach of privacy for your customers.
Trojans are pieces of malware that look like legitimate programs. People inside your organization may install it on their systems. Once inside your network, the trojan can do a lot of damage, making trojans a significant cybersecurity risk.
Worms are self-replicating programs that can enter a system attached to an email, then spread out, once it finds the contacts database. More and more people get emails that look like they are from co-workers, open the attachment and infect their own computer.
Malware programs seek to access sensitive data, copy it and send it outside of your system to an external port or server where the attacker can retrieve it. A basic antivirus is only one small aspect of a robust malware defense. You also need antivirus, deep-packet inspection firewalls, intrusion detection systems (IDSs), email virus scanners and employee awareness training.
Unpatched Security VulnerabilitiesMany of the new threats developed daily are targeted at known network vulnerabilities. Failing to patch those vulnerabilities by ignoring “update now” messaging can lead to an easily exploited thin spot in your firm’s defenses by cybercriminals.
An IT team working on a regular update schedule can help ensure that all of the latest security patches for your organization’s software are applied across each system.
Protecting Your Investment Firm Against Security RiskWhile it is nearly impossible to guarantee that your firm is impenetrable to hackers, there are a number of actions that can be taken to greatly decrease cybersecurity vulnerabilities.
First and foremost, investment funds should evaluate internal policies and procedures to ensure that standard precautions such as password protection, email encryption, up-to-date antivirus software, and physical security measures are in place to prevent unauthorized access.
To better mitigate all of the above risks we've mentioned, your firm can leverage the expertise of a third-party technology provider. By placing the burden of risk on an outsourced provider, you free up your firm's resources for other projects - whether they're IT- or investment-focused.
Whether it's project-by-project or on a part- or full-time basis, an outsourced IT provider like ECI can offer a vast array of services and solutions designed to meet your firm's unique needs — and, of course, to reduce your firm's inherent risk.
Testing and Training Options From ECIHuman error is arguably responsible for the single largest vulnerability in the cybersecurity chain of any organization. Building up the human firewall within your organization will help avoid getting ‘hooked’ by hackers.
Phishing simulations and training for your employees can be one of the best ways to protect your firm against fake emails and social platform-based cyber risk. When you engage ECI to phish your own employees, you create real-world scenarios in which they meet with threats and have to react appropriately. If they fail to uphold system security procedures, the point is driven home of how easy it is to fall victim to pressure tactics.
Vulnerability scanning and penetration testing can also help identify weak spots in your firm's cybersecurity defenses. A vulnerability assessment from ECI means that security experts completely assess your network, device, application, and wireless security, then give you clear and actionable recommendations to remediate threats.
These services can provide a starting point to instill better vulnerability management. From there, we can discuss the benefits of having a managed services provider with experience protecting investment firms.