By deploying modernized cloud security, the financial industry can better defend against ransomware

Today columnist Ravi Srinivasan of Votiro reports that a Google Cloud survey found that 83% of financial services companies deploy cloud technology as part of their core IT infrastructure. Srinivasan says these modern cloud technologies can help businesses mitigate ransomware attacks. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The days of Bonnie and Clyde-style bank robberies are over. No need to go to the bank when cybercriminals can steal it from the comfort of their own home. This is basically what cybercriminals do through ransomware attacks.

When malicious actors think of the organizations with the most highly sensitive information, as well as those most “rich” and willing to pay a ransom, it’s no surprise that financial institutions are a priority target. Cybercriminals have narrowed their reach and succeeded by deploying ransomware attacks against financial institutions. Victims range from small regional banks to national financial agencies such as Brazil’s National Treasury.

What started a few decades ago has turned into a successful and lucrative operation for cybercriminal groups. Major ransomware players — Conti, REvil, Darkside, Clop, and Ragnar — have become household names, and new players — Hive, BlackMatter, AvosLocker, and others — have entered the market. Bad actors have staged advanced techniques, adopted ransomware-as-a-service models, exploited new vectors, and demanded outrageous payouts – a $40 million ransom payment made by CNA Financial in March 2021 was the highest payout. most important to date. So where are we? What awaits ransomware in the financial sector this year and beyond?

New ransomware use cases on the rise

The way organizations operate today has changed dramatically since the introduction of ransomware. Ransomware actually started in the 1980s, yes, back in the days of floppy disks. Think about how far technology has come since then and how much of our world has been digitized. Businesses depend on these new digitized systems, and over the past couple of years we’ve truly immersed ourselves in digital transformation. These trends have created new use cases and attack vectors for ransomware.

Hackers usually distribute ransomware through malicious documents downloaded via email. It’s been a tried and true tactic for cybercriminals for years, but with digital transformations and increased work-from-home policies, two new use cases have emerged: third-party ecosystems and the cloud.

The use of third parties

Third-party ecosystems for financial services companies consist of the digital products and service providers that these organizations integrate to conduct operations virtually or in digital environments. Think of Zelle. It is a digital payment network that partners with most major banks as well as many smaller regional and local banks. Banks are leveraging Zelle to allow consumers to transfer money from one bank account to another, traditionally through their online banking platforms.

Zelle has become widely used, but there are many other products, service providers, APIs, and digital software that financial institutions rely on on a daily basis. While these companies help financial organizations create user-friendly and accessible platforms and streamline internal processes, they also expose institutions to increased risks. Consider the cyberattack on Morgan Stanley last year. In the summer of 2021, Morgan Stanley announced that customers’ social security numbers had been breached after the company was involved in a security incident due to a cyberattack affecting Accellion, one of Morgan’s suppliers. Stanley. Financial institutions traditionally have strong cyber defenses, but organizations are only as strong as their weakest third. Bad actors always choose the path of least resistance, and often they easily use third parties as avenues to larger targets.

Move to the cloud

Financial institutions have traditionally been slow to adopt the cloud, but that’s about to change. Many financial institutions have prioritized public cloud adoption over the next few years. In fact, a recent Google Cloud survey indicates that 83% of financial services companies surveyed deploy cloud technology as part of core IT infrastructures. Increased cloud usage means moving content-rich applications to the cloud, such as credit cards, mortgage applications, and storing customer and partner content on cloud data platforms.

And this is where organizations make missteps. Many don’t realize that they can’t use the same cybersecurity policies and processes in a public cloud infrastructure as they do in a self-hosted data center infrastructure. For example, many organizations used layers of firewalls to protect against malicious activity on the servers they knew the application was running on. Now, this approach isn’t as efficient given that the content runs on cloud servers outside of the company. Malicious actors continue to exploit the fact that organizations are not adapting their security policies and strategies to accommodate the move to the cloud. Because of this, they can easily find holes in the security blanket to access sensitive content hosted in cloud environments. Today’s user-friendly business processes require a new, modern approach to security that is usable and enables secure business continuity.

A content-centric approach to cybersecurity

Everything around us is constantly updated with new and improved technologies. To put things into perspective, Apple has introduced 34 versions of the iPhone since 2007, each with new features. This is also true for the enterprise technologies that organizations rely on every day. And, just like how people update their phones every two years, they need to do the same with security technology.

Organizations often fail when upgrading the legacy security systems they have in place. They often try to fill in the gaps by bringing in new security solutions on top of the legacy systems they have in place, but this can quickly become very complex and expensive.

Companies really need to do a complete overhaul of the security stack and upgrade the entire system, but organizations often don’t have the resources to do so. There is no shortage of solutions in the cybersecurity market that can provide the necessary protection that financial institutions need. Modern approaches to cybersecurity can start by focusing on how businesses use content. And, unlike traditional security technologies, many of these solutions are designed with the end user in mind and improve workforce productivity. This could protect the company from a destructive and costly digital heist.

Ravi Srinivasan, Managing Director, Votiro

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