Data security has long been a priority for financial services firms. But a wave of very public cyber-attacks by international hacker groups such as Anonymous, combined with an already distrustful public following the financial crisis, has forced financial services firms to step up their network security to prevent data breaches and regain clients' trust. While victims of some of the more notable attacks and data breaches of 2011 were large consumer companies and government agencies--including Sony, PBS, the U.S. Senate, and even the CIA and FBI; security experts say financial services firms, traditionally a popular target of fraudsters, are increasingly a target of criminal hackers.
Citibank, for example, discovered a data breach on May 10, 2011, from a hack attack, the consumer fraud website PrivacyRights.org reported. Two weeks later, Citigroup officials concluded that the data thieves had captured included the names, account numbers, and email addresses of about 360,000 customers.
"The reality is that the people who are looking to commit fraud are targeting anybody who has Internet access to applications that allow money to be moved," comments Ben Knieff, Director of Product Marketing at Nice Actimize, a provider of financial crime, risk and compliance solutions. Outside of the retail banking area, hackers could target asset managers, wealth managers, even investors who have access to online assets, relates Knieff.
Security professionals say cyber-attacks have become relentless--and more sophisticated than ever. According to reports, hackers can even purchase crime-ware kits on the Internet based on the number of machines they want to infect for as little as $400 to $700.
While five years ago financial services firms mainly saw hackers using "relatively simplistic methods to target customer accounts, attack patterns have shifted," says Lou Steinberg, CTO at TD Ameritrade. In addition, many hackers, such as Anonymous, now have social agendas, he notes.
Hackers, according to Jason Milletary, technical director for malware analysis on the Dell SecureWorks' Counter Threat Unit (CTU) research team, a provider of security information services to financial firms, use a variety of techniques to distribute malware--malicious code on computer systems designed to steal personal information and passwords or to take control of the machine for distributing spam without the owner's knowledge. They may leverage social engineering (by making an email appear to come from a friend or colleague to entice the user to open the document, for example) to try to get users to reveal passwords. Hackers also look to exploit weaknesses in applications to steal clients' credentials.
It's no longer a matter of if you get hacked, but when. In this special retrospective of news coverage, Monitoring Tools And Logs Make All The Difference, Dark Reading takes a look at ways to measure your security posture and the challenges that lie ahead with the emerging threat landscape. (Free registration required.)