The financial services industry is rapidly transforming to meet clients’ evolving needs. Banks, credit unions and other financial services organizations are mobilizing their people and technology to maximize speed, choice and convenience for their customers. These changes are presenting companies with new challenges and increased digital risk, with email-borne attacks being the predominant concern. Over ninety percent of all cyberattacks and breaches - which can shake any comany in this industry to the core with data theft, expensive downtime and lost client trust - can be attributed to email-borne phishing attacks.

Cyberthieves are also benefiting from the modernization that’s occurring with widespread migration to the cloud, the increased freedom of being able to work from anywhere, distracted remote workers, frequently misconfigured and inherently insecure cloud platforms and overworked security staff who may lack the resources to concentrate on every new touchpoint. Attacks have skyrocketed in recent months, as the pandemic has provided new vunerabilities and cybersecurity obstacles, which threat actors are readily exploiting. Ponemon Institute reports that 69% of financial services organizations have now experienced a cyberattack at some point during their lifetime.

This article will examine the main threats that financial institutions currently face and measures that these organizations can take to protect remote workers, safeguard sensitive data and maintain hard-earned client trust

Email Risk is Big in the Financial Services Industry 

Financial services companies face a plethora of persistent and highly dangerous email-borne threats on a daily basis. Some of the most common and costly exploits targeting financial services organizations include:

  • Phishing: Cyber criminals utilize advanced social engineering and impersonation techniques to trick victims into giving up account credentials and sensitive data. These scams - which thrive during tax season - can be used to gain access to a companies’ direct deposit payroll system or steal valuable W-2 information, which can either be used to file fraudulent tax returns or sold on the dark web. 
  • Ransomware: Usually delivered as a malicious attachment in a phishing email, this destructive type of malware encrypts computer files and demands payment for access to a digital key needed to decrypt the data. A ransomware attack can have devastating consequences for companies in the financial sector including extensive, costly downtime spent trying to secure remaining files and networks and recover lost work, and severe reputation damage. Purplesec reports that in 2020, businesses lost an average $283,000 per ransomware incident due to downtime, up from almost $47,000 in 2018. Small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are a popular target among ransomware operators, as these companies often lack the cybersecurity resources and expertise required to repel an attack.
  • Business Email Compromise (BEC): In this sophisticated exploit, a threat actor obtains access to a corporate email account and sends fraudulent emails under the identity of the account owner in order to steal sensitive information and money from victims. This highly effective scam is widespread in the financial services industry, and has generated losses of $26 billion worldwide. 

Breaking Down the Financial Industry Threat Landscape

Banks & Credit Unions: 

Cybercriminals are narrowing the focus of their phishing and ransomware attacks - and the banking and credit union industry has emerged as one of the most popular targets. Breaches targeting this industry sector will continue to become more complex and difficult to prevent, as companies are reducing person-to-person contact and relying more heavily on email than ever, increasing the digital attack surface. Threat actors are also “upping their game” and refining their tactics, making attack campaigns increasingly effective. Attacks are timed and tailored for maximum effect, exploiting our anxieties, especially at times during a major crisis when we're least prepared.

Financial services companies are working to upgrade the security of their systems during this critical phase of building their remote workforce, and learning how to take advantage of the benefits of cloud in their environment. 

Payroll & Billing Firms:

The payroll and billing industry is a favorite focus of cybercriminals given the sensitivity of client data - and attacks impacting the industry are at an all-time high. Threat actors utilize advanced social engineering tactics to craft deceptive phishing and impersonation scams directed at payroll and billing firms. In this dangerous scam, threat actors email employees with a spoofed log-in page for an email host, allowing the attackers to use credentials to send legitimate-looking direct deposit change requests.

With the rapid evolution of attackers’ techniques, these malicious campaigns are becoming increasingly difficult to detect and employees can unknowingly fall prey to a phishing attack with just one click, putting the entire business at risk. Phishing attacks often result in business email compromise (BEC), direct deposit scams, payroll fraud and data breaches - all of which can have devastating consequences for firms, resulting in financial loss and serious reputation damage. 

Guardian Digital EnGarde Cloud Email Security: Threat-Ready, Fully Supported Email Vigilance for Financial Organizations 

For the past 20 years, we’ve been protecting our clients in the financial services sector against emerging threats targeting the industry. Key benefits of securing your business email with Guardian Digital EnGarde Cloud Email Security include:

Keeps you ahead of emerging threats. Through a defense-in-depth approach to security, a collaborative open-source development model that uniquely provides us with access to tools and resources from an innovative global community and over 20 years of industry experience and engineering expertise, we keep businesses ahead of the latest, most sophisticated email attacks. 

Prevents email fraud. We implement multiple email authentication protocols including SPF, DKIM and DMARC to protect our clients from sender fraud, email spoofing and impersonation attacks. We also protect you from threats that don’t involve malware, such as credential phishing and other types of fraud. We scrutinize each email using hundreds of thousands of attributes of each email to determine whether it’s safe for you to open prior to it being received.

Safeguards against phishing, ransomware and impersonation attacks. Cyber thieves use malicious URLs embedded in phishing email to redirect users to fraudulent websites where they collect users’ credentials. We scan all URLs in real-time to detect malicious links leading to compromise. We also analyze all email attachments for ransomware and other malicious code, which can halt operations if downloaded onto your systems.

Protects sensitive information. We understand that data is a key asset that is highly sought after by cybercriminals. To ensure that your critical information remains safe, we implement layered email authentication standards and protocols - assuring that every email our customers receive is from who it says it’s from - not some malicious actor claiming to be the sender in an attempt to compromise sensitive information and credentials. Our complete, end-to-end email vigilance safeguards against data loss, tampering and theft.

Fortifies cloud email against credential phishing and account takeovers. Microsoft and Google are great at providing email services - but not so great at securing them. The built-in cloud email protection that these tech giants provide is static, single-layered and lacks preventitive measures to anticipate and block zero-day attacks. Despite existing email protection, 40% of Office 365 users have had their credentials stolen in a phishing attack. We provide critical additional layers of security in Office 365, Google Workspace and other vulnerable cloud platforms, seamlessly integrating with all existing platforms and effectively complementing insufficient default protection. 

Guardian Digital has become a valued partner of Commerce Bank due to their depth of security and continued dedication in assisting us to protect our critical business communications.

- Jill Brungardt, Information Security Consultant, Commerce Bank

Our managed services experts partner with your IT team to understand the threats you face, work with you to manage the protection needed to keep you safe and maintain the level of vigilance required to safeguard your organization from emerging threats. 

We’re here to help you successfully navigate this challenging transitional time and and plan for the future. Get a Demo>

Blog Articles