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A 3-Step Security Action Plan for Financial Firms

The finance sector is a prime target for cybercrime and appears fourth in the list of industries most commonly attacked by hackers, according to the 2015 Trustwave Global Security Report. This illustrates just how attractive the sector remains to intruders - and how prone to attack it is - despite that it is generally considered the most security-mature of all industries.

While regulations exist that guide firms toward security compliance, acting on those requirements still remains a widespread challenge for the financial sector. And the mandates will only get stricter. For example, the European Union's impending General Data Protection Regulation will place added pressure on organizations to implement appropriate technical and organizational measures to prevent data loss.

While compliance carries a big stick in terms of potential penalties, it should be viewed as the ground floor for security. Businesses require additional security services that help them go beyond rules and regulations to protect customer financial data and intellectual property from a compromise.

Here are three necessary steps they should take:

Step 1: Identify Vulnerabilities

Insecure remote access software/policies and weak passwords tied as the vulnerability most exploited by criminals in cases investigated by Trustwave in 2014. Meanwhile, weak or non-existent input validation (including SQL injection) or unpatched vulnerabilities contributed to 75 percent of e-commerce breaches

Trustwave application scanners identified 17,748 vulnerabilities, and 98 percent of them at one or more security vulnerabilities. Aside from SQL injection, information leakage, cross-site scripting, session management, authentication and authorization, and cross-site requests were among the most common application vulnerabilities

Legacy systems also could compound risk as these outdated and complex systems may be missing patches or lack adequate security capabilities to protect data.

Step 2: Segment Your Network and Prioritize Fixes

No matter how unwieldy a large system has become, firewalls can be used to segment networks from each another to increase control and security, and quarantine compromises if they occur. The more flat the network segment, the easier it will be to patch and harden servers, databases and other hosts.

Speaking of patching, audit your patch management program and prioritize which fixes are most important. Businesses use Trustwave Managed Security Testing, for example, as a single platform for all of their managed vulnerability assessment, database security testing, network penetration testing and application penetration testing needs.

Step 3: Reduce Detection Time

Detecting a breach is difficult, and no more so than in the finance sector where hackers are increasingly adopting stealthy strategies to hide within systems for many months before making their move.

Early breach detection relies on a combination of well-defined processes, robust threat detection technology like SIEM, and skilled people, which most companies don't have in place internally. In fact, the aforementioned Trustwave Global Security Report found that 81 percent of victims were unable to identify a breach themselves, and that the time from intrusion to detection in these cases ranged from one day to 4 ½ years.

Our research showed a direct correlation between self-detection and fast containment of the compromise. Where detection wasn't identified in house, but instead reported by an external source, containment was significantly delayed.

Early detection by a managed security services provider (MSSP) or by your own detection system is critical in the speedy recovery - and protection - of data in the event of an attack.

Jane Dotensko is Trustwave marketing manager in EMEA.