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The Best Cybersecurity Strategies for Banks and Financial Organizations

use these cybersecurity strategies to protect banking data

Banks and financial institutions, take note: though the year is almost over, no one is safe from a data breach. Industries across the board have seen 4.5 million records stolen so far in 2018—a staggering 133% increase over those compromised in 2017.

As you create updated cybersecurity plans and data breach prevention strategies for the new year, it’s imperative to look at how you’re securing sensitive business and cardholder data at rest and in transit. How aware are employees of potential internal threats and risky practices? And are you sure you’re fully compliant with regulation requirements for PCI DSS and other local laws?

Make sure you’re prepared for every threat, in this year and the next, with these top data security strategies for banks and financial institutions.

Encrypt All Sensitive Information, No Exceptions

As we’ve mentioned in this whitepaper, encrypting every sensitive file, no matter if it’s in transit to a recipient or stored on a server, is critical to avoiding a data breach. This strategy should be one of the most important practices in your cybersecurity arsenal, and for good reason: it is your last line of defense. If a cyberattack is successful at getting into your private network, it will not be able to read the information in your files—and that alone will save you much of the headache a successful breach can bring.

If you haven’t yet, consider implementing a strategy in your organization that will encrypt and streamline both your files and file transfers. Some IT teams use free OpenPGP tools to achieve file security, but many others have found it useful to go with an all-in-one managed file transfer solution to protect their files at rest and in transit, automate and streamline their trading partner file transfers, manage user based ad-hoc file transfers, and audit all activity.

Teach Employees Good Security Hygiene

According to a recent 2018 study from Verizon, over 90% of successful malware attacks are due to employees opening spear phishing emails on their PCs at work. From “one size fits all” spam to emails that carefully (and intelligently) target specific employees or departments, these scams are getting more dangerous ... and are unfortunately proving to be a successful way of breaching organizations worldwide.

The thought of employee cybersecurity training often brings to mind visions of mandatory meetings, mind numbing Powerpoint presentations, and vague directions on how to detect dangers that employees promptly forget about two months later. Due to this understanding of what “employee awareness” entails, many organizations fail to get employees passionate, engaged, and invested in good security hygiene.

In an article on the importance of employee education, Kathryn Anderson, Senior Manager of IT Risk and Compliance at Backbone Consultants, argues that employees don’t feel invested in generic cybersecurity training. They don’t see how it impacts their daily responsibilities or how they can really help the organization succeed.

“Security,” she said, is usually viewed as ”something that a bunch of nerds in the back [are] working on to keep them safe.” But when the Fortune 500 food company she worked at started investing in their employees through engaging education programs that started during the onboarding process, people began to understand. They began to care—and became empowered to the cause.

So if you put the time in training your workplace to understand good security hygiene, Anderson believes “those employees will arise to the occasion and not only become your strongest business asset, but your strongest cyber security defense.”

Create an Incident Response Plan

Though the goal for most organizations is total breach prevention, some industry reports claim the question isn’t “if” you'll be data breached. It’s “when.” Thankfully, that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to pay massive fines and lose data. With a solid cybersecurity plan and solid incident response plan in place, a compromised system vulnerability can be dealt with quickly, efficiently, and cleanly, without any data or personal information stolen.

Whether you have an incident response plan that needs updating or you still need to create one, there’s no better time to get started than now. Last year’s best templates and resources for building a response plan are compiled in this article.

Ensure Total Regulation Compliance

Data security laws can be hard to comply with, especially when your business must ensure compliance for several at a time (like PCI DSS, SOX, and the GDPR, for example). There are many factors that go into achieving compliance. Having a team to work on your list of requirements, having time to frequently audit your systems and practices, and keeping up with recent standard updates are just a few of the considerations that can complicate total regulation compliance.

Still, data security laws are in place for a reason. Complying with their standards can help protect you from system weaknesses, vulnerable business practices, and other areas or oversights that lead to a data breach. So when you’re looking at your cybersecurity practices for 2019, consider looking at the standards and regulations your organization needs to meet. Are you 100% compliant? If not, which areas need to be worked on? An audit might be a good start.

Here’s a hint: Need to meet a variety of file transfer requirements for PCI DSS, SOX, GLBA, and the GDPR? A centralized, secure file transfer solution might be the improvement you need to ensure compliance with key data encryption needs.

Bring in the Professionals

There’s no shame in bringing an outside perspective to your cybersecurity strategy. In fact, it might be one of the smartest things you can do. With threats appearing faster than your organization anticipates them, consulting with experienced industry professionals can provide many benefits for your security plans. These include:

  • Peace of mind that risks (internal and external) will be identified
  • Expert guidance in building hardened system and network security
  • The evaluation of your current setup via informative risk assessments
  • The creation of new, actionable plans for monitoring and reporting

When contemplating whether you want to bring in a team of experts, make sure you research potential consultants to ensure they understand your organization’s business goals, have worked in the areas of cybersecurity you’re looking to improve, and can work with your overall budget.

Work alongside with the cybersecurity experts at HelpSystems. Get started today.

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