The financial industry has become one of the top cybercrime targets in recent years.
Banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions are considered lucrative targets because of their handling of money and sensitive client information. Social Security numbers, credit card data, and bank account information are all seen as extremely valuable in a cybercriminal’s eyes.
With numerous cybersecurity threats looming over the financial industry, it’s critical for businesses in this sector to understand what they're up against and how to protect themselves. In this blog, we will discuss the top five specific cybersecurity threats that the financial industry faces so you can better safeguard your organization.
Phishing is at an all-time high, with one million attacks reported in the first quarter of 2022 alone. To make matters worse, the financial sector was involved in the bulk of all phishing attacks in the first half of the year, making it the most targeted industry.
But what exactly is phishing?
Phishing is a type of attack where cybercriminals send malicious emails that look like they’re from a legitimate company, or even a co-worker, to trick you into revealing sensitive information. For example, a phisher may send an email that appears to be from your bank, saying that your account is locked. The email will then prompt you to click on a link and enter your login information to reactivate your account.
Phishing attacks have been around for a while. For instance, the infamous Carbanak malware attack, which was reported in 2014, began with a phishing email. The Carbanak malware has since been used to steal over $1 billion from hundreds of financial institutions worldwide.
Phishers have only gotten smarter Just this April, North Korea-sponsored cyberthreat group Lazarus was found to be using phishing lures to implant malicious programs and steal cryptocurrency across decentralized finance apps. Lazarus is also linked to different elaborate cyberattacks, such as the Axie Infinity hack that led to the theft of $600 million, which all started with fake job offers on LinkedIn.
Phishing is a serious threat to businesses in the financial industry and should be on top of your threat mitigation list.
Malware, short for malicious software, is another cyberthreat that financial institutions should prepare for. It refers to any software that is designed to damage or disable computers. Malware can be comprised of viruses, worms, Trojans, spyware, and many more threats. While businesses in finance should be wary of all types of malware, they should pay particular attention to ransomware, which has heavily devastated the financial sector this year.
Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts all files on the victim's computer and asks for a ransom in exchange for the decryption key. Per an Anti-Phishing Working Group study, financial services saw a 35% increase in ransomware attacks in the first quarter of 2022. One of the most notable victims of ransomware this year is multinational insurance broker AON, which revealed in February that a cyberattack had affected some parts of their systems.
Related reading: NIST CSF Profiles for Ransomware Risk Management
3. Cryptocurrency Theft
Cryptocurrency theft occurs when cybercriminals launch hacking attacks or social engineering scams to steal cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin, from exchanges or wallets. In this type of attack, the stakes are very high.
Now, just six months into 2022, approximately $1.7 billion worth of cryptocurrency has already been stolen. This figure is largely driven by two attacks earlier this year: the Ronin attack in March and the Wormhole attack in February, which involved the theft of $622 million and $320 million, respectively.
4. Authentication Bypass
Authentication technology-related threats, such as multi-factor authentication (MFA) bypass, are also a growing concern in the financial sector. 2FA is an extra layer of security for verifying user identity when logging in to an account. However, if a cybercriminal can bypass this second factor of authentication, they can gain access to an account even if they don’t have the login details.
This is exactly what happened to the crypto exchange website Crypto.com on January 17, 2022. Because of a 2FA bypass, unauthorized transactions were approved, resulting in over $300 million lost across 483 accounts.
According to Crypto.com, they have since implemented a more stringent authentication process and reimbursed their customers for the money lost in the attack.
5. Supply Chain Attacks
Per software company Anchore’s 2022 report on supply chain security, software supply chain attacks are on the rise, with finance ranking among the top industries impacted by such attacks.
Attacking the supply chain is an attractive strategy for cybercriminals, as it allows them to compromise thousands of victims with a single breach while gaining extensive internal access to compromised systems. For example, hackers can insert malicious code into software or hardware supplied to a bank for processing transactions. Once the software is installed on the bank’s computers, the hacker will have access to the bank’s systems and sensitive information.
One of the most devastating supply chain attacks was the SolarWinds supply chain attack in 2020, which took advantage of the SUNBURST backdoor implanted in a supplier’s systems to compromise organizations worldwide. Victims of this breach included Cisco, Intel, Microsoft, and several departments of the US government, including Homeland Security and the Treasury.
These are just five of the many threats that the financial sector has to combat in 2022 and onward. To stay one step ahead of threat actors and mitigate ever-evolving risks, businesses in finance must implement a robust cybersecurity program that includes incident response plans, employee security awareness training, and cutting-edge cybersecurity solutions. They should also consider partnering with a trusted managed IT services provider that has a deep understanding of the specific cybersecurity threats that the financial industry faces.
Charles IT offers comprehensive solutions and unmatched support to help protect your business against the biggest cybersecurity threats. Talk to an IT expert now!