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Cyber Security in Fintech 101: What you need to know

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Ly Hoang

September 21 2023
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As fintech firms increasingly take center stage in financial transactions, they carry a core responsibility—security. Those firms house highly sensitive customer data and funds, making them prime targets for hackers. If you’re a decision-maker in financial technology firms, understanding cybersecurity is no longer optional—it’s critical. This article provides that essential knowledge. Cyber Security in Fintech […]

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As fintech firms increasingly take center stage in financial transactions, they carry a core responsibility—security. Those firms house highly sensitive customer data and funds, making them prime targets for hackers.

If you’re a decision-maker in financial technology firms, understanding cybersecurity is no longer optional—it’s critical. This article provides that essential knowledge.

Cyber Security in Fintech 101: What you need to know

What is Cybersecurity in Fintech?

Cybersecurity in the fintech sector refers specifically to protecting financial technology infrastructure and services from cyber threats. This differs from cybersecurity in other industries due to the high-value assets at stake – namely money, financial data, and personal information of customers.

Special care must be taken to mitigate fintech cyber attacks that can undermine those services. Effective cybersecurity requires securing the entire digital finance ecosystem. This includes all the apps, mobile banking, payment systems, investing platforms, back-end servers, customer databases, and other components.

 

Fintech firms guard a wealth of confidential data, demanding stout defenses against cyber threats. Image: Freepik

Cybersecurity Risks and Challenges

The digital nature of fintech brings unique cybersecurity challenges. Companies must be vigilant against these threats, which can hamper their operations.

Data Breaches

Perhaps the most prevalent fintech risk is data breaches. A data breach occurs when an unauthorized party gains access to confidential information.

Given the volume of financial data fintech firms store, breaches can expose customer account details, social security numbers, bank account numbers, and more.

When cybercriminals sneak into a fintech system, they often remain undetected for long periods, silently extracting valuable data. Data breaches have led to financial losses of billions globally, impacting both fintech service providers and their customers.

But it’s not just about the money; a breach can shatter customer trust and damage a company’s reputation.

DDoS Attacks

Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks aim to overwhelm systems and servers with traffic to take them offline. These attacks can be especially disruptive for  companies that provide digital financial services.

If trading systems, mobile apps, or payment networks are knocked offline by DDoS attacks, it can halt critical fintech operations and prevent customers from accessing their funds or accounts. The chaos and customer dissatisfaction would be immense, leading to tangible losses and trust erosion.

Ransomware

Ransomware is malware that encrypts data until a ransom is paid. Due to the sensitivity of financial data, ransomware represents a severe threat to fintech companies.

A successful ransomware attack can halt a fintech service in its tracks, causing operational paralysis. Beyond the demanded ransom, the cost of lost operations and damage control can skyrocket, making ransomware a potent threat.

Ransomware can cost a lot without preparation. Image: Freepik

Spoofing

Cybercriminals often use tactics like phishing emails or fraudulent websites to impersonate legitimate companies to trick users. In fintech, this could mean creating a fake banking app or sending fraudulent emails that appear to be from reputable financial institutions.

Spoofing has been the cause of several fraudulent transactions where victims unknowingly divulge their banking details to the perpetrator. Such instances of misinformation not only cause direct financial harm but also breed a sense of distrust among users and discourage them from fully embracing fintech solutions.

Identity Theft

Identity theft is a persistent threat where hackers steal user information to open fraudulent accounts. This is enabled by fintech’s reliance on digital identities versus in-person verification.

Cybercriminals can access and use someone’s personal information for financial gain, often unbeknownst to the victims until much later. They might open bank accounts, apply for loans, or make transactions, all under the stolen identity.

Insider Threats

While external threats often capture the spotlight, insider threats shouldn’t be overlooked.

They stem from employees, contractors, or third parties exploiting their trusted access to systems for malicious purposes. Whether intentional (such as a disgruntled employee seeking revenge) or unintentional (like a staff member falling for a phishing scam), these threats can be equally destructive.

Fintech firms, with their digital-first approach, have numerous access points that can be exploited. This environment can lead to increased vulnerability posed by insider threats.

Regulatory Compliance

Fintech companies must comply with financial sector regulations covering security, consumer protection, and fraud prevention. Keeping systems and processes compliant as new regulations emerge is difficult, and failure to comply can result in hefty penalties.

Cybersecurity Best Practices for Fintech Firms

Addressing cybersecurity risks in fintech demands a proactive and comprehensive approach. Here are some best practices fintech firms can adopt to improve their cybersecurity posture.

Invest in Staff and Solutions

An adequate budget must be dedicated to cybersecurity. These skilled personnel and advanced cybersecurity solutions are more and more important when the stakes are so high.

Having a dedicated cybersecurity team ensures continuous monitoring of systems and timely identification of threats. Meanwhile, state-of-the-art cybersecurity tools can further fortify defenses, enabling early threat detection and swift response.

A well-equipped security team can help prevent many future problems. Image: Freepik

Implement Robust Authentication and Access Control

Multi-factor authentication, biometric verification, and complex password policies can significantly reduce unauthorized access risks. Options like biometrics, one-time codes, and security keys make authentication more rigorous than just usernames and passwords.

Effective access control complements these strategies and makes sure that only authorized individuals can access sensitive data.

This means the adoption of the principle of least privilege, where each user has the minimum levels of access required to perform their duties. This approach can reduce the potential damage in case of insider threats or compromised user credentials.

Conduct Training

A well-trained workforce is one of the strongest cybersecurity assets a fintech company can have.

Regular training sessions can equip employees with knowledge about the latest cybersecurity trends, common threats, and best practices. They help create a security-first culture and make staff more cognizant of risks and equip them to spot suspicious activity.

Training should cover topics like phishing prevention, safe internet usage, access management, social engineering red flags, and more based on role.

Have Response Plans in Place

Fintech firms need response plans for cyber incidents to minimize disruption. This includes breach response plans, business continuity plans, disaster recovery plans, and crisis communication plans.

Such plans should not only include preventive measures to ward off attacks but also outline response strategies in the event of a breach. They must also be tested and updated regularly. This preparation helps minimize the impact and downtime in case of an attack.

Monitor and Detection

Fintech firms should have 24/7 security operations centers analyzing alerts and investigating potential incidents. Prompt detection allows for rapid response, often stopping an attack before it can inflict significant damage. AI-powered analytics tools can help identify those anomalies and suspicious behaviors.

Regular Audits and Assessments

Fintech companies need to frequently audit networks, apps, systems, and processes for risks, vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and compliance gaps.

Penetration testing by ethical hackers mimics real attacks to uncover weak points. Risk assessments should identify cybersecurity gaps to guide improvement.

How Locker Can Boost Cybersecurity in Fintech

Locker Fintech
Locker is an enterprise-grade security solution that works on all major platforms.

In fintech cybersecurity, a comprehensive password management solution like Locker can always play a pivotal role.

Rather than employees choosing weak or reused passwords that put fintech firms at risk, Locker securely generates and stores complex, random passwords for every account and system. This prevents easy guessing of credentials by bad actors, closing off a major cyberattack vector.

Going beyond standard password security, Locker enforces additional authentication mechanisms like biometrics across all apps and systems. This multi-factor authentication makes unauthorized account access far more difficult in the event of credential compromise.

Locker can also provide centralized visibility and control over password hygiene issues across the organization.

Fintech IT and security teams can identify weak, reused, or compromised passwords at a company level instead of just an individual level. They can proactively enforce secure password policies and reset vulnerable credentials before they are exploited.

Locker also facilitates more secure passwordless authentication powered by passkeys. This enhanced approach aligns with the industry direction and avoids the inherent security flaws of traditional passwords.

Wrapping Up

Advanced and robust cybersecurity is non-negotiable for fintech players. As the industry continues to evolve, businesses must be prepared to invest heavily in protecting their digital environment.

With Locker, your organization can seamlessly close security gaps and reduce human error risks. It’s not just a tool but also a comprehensive solution designed to meet the unique cybersecurity needs of the fintech sector.

Try it out and explore what Locker for Business can do for your firm today.

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