5 Best Practices for Financial Cybersecurity Compliance

Aug 01, 2023 8 Min Read
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From checking social media to paying our bills, we spend an incredible amount of time online nowadays! Because of this, online threats are only growing. In fact, 422 million people were impacted by data compromises in 2022.

Naturally, the financial sector is a preferred target for cybercriminals around the world. After all, it’s a treasure trove of sensitive personal and corporate information.

Read more: How To Build A Culture Of Cybersecurity For Your Business

With threats evolving all of the time, it’s imperative that companies achieve financial cybersecurity compliance. Of course, this is easier said than done, but we’re here to help. 

The latest cybersecurity threats

There are many different types of cybersecurity threats that financial companies need to deal with. Some of the main ones include:

  • Ransomware attacks - This involves the use of malicious software programs that encrypt data so you cannot access it. The cybercriminal will then demand a ransom. However, if you pay the ransom, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get your data back! 
  • Phishing scams - Phishing is when a cybercriminal tries to trick you or an employee into providing sensitive information. This typically happens through deceptive websites and emails. 
  • Social engineering - Cybercriminals use various tactics to manipulate individuals into divulging confidential information or taking actions that compromise security.
  • Insider threats - These are cybersecurity threats from within! Sadly, malicious contractors or employees who have legitimate access to your systems could have bad intentions. 
  • Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) - APTs are long-term, targeted attacks. The hacker steals data and causes damage for a sustained period of time without being detected.

The best practices for financial cybersecurity compliance 

Now that you have a good understanding of some of the main threats you face, let’s take a look at some of the ways to combat them.

1. Start by adhering to relevant laws 

Of course, you need to adhere to cybersecurity laws. But, you should also want to! After all, these laws provide an excellent starting point in terms of protecting your data.

Some of the regulations you must follow include:

  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
  • California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)
  • Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA)
  • Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)
  • Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX)
  • Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA)

You may think that GDPR is only for EU-based businesses or that you only need to be concerned with the California Privacy Rights Act if you’re based in California. 

Not true! 

Even if you have just one customer based in California, you need to follow the CCPA. It’s designed to protect Californian residents. 

Plus, it’s likely that we’ll see more state legislation like this come into play. So, by adhering to the CCPA, you’ll prepare yourself for future regulations of this nature.

2. Conduct vulnerability assessments and penetration testing 

In the world of cybersecurity, playing offence is as important as playing defence. In fact, some of the best defenders are those who can think like an attacker!

Enter the realm of vulnerability assessments and penetration testing - two strategies that flip the script on cyber threats, helping us identify and fix weak spots before they can be exploited.

This may interest you: 5 Ways To Foster Cyber Resilience In Your Company

Vulnerability assessments

Think of a vulnerability assessment as a treasure hunt for security weak spots. 

This process is like having a doctor perform a physical exam on your cybersecurity infrastructure, spotting the symptoms before the disease progresses.

It can uncover:

  • Outdated software that hasn't been patched with the latest security updates
  • Misconfigurations that leave doors open for attackers to step in
  • Unused or unnecessary services that could be exploited by malicious actors

Penetration testing

Now that we've identified possible weak points, it's time to test them. Penetration testing, also known as ethical hacking, is like a fire drill for your cyber defences.

It involves the following steps:

  1. Planning - Define the scope and goals of the test, including the systems to be involved and the testing methods to be used.
  2. Scanning - Obtain intelligence on how the target application will respond to different intrusion attempts.
  3. Gaining access - Attempt to exploit vulnerabilities to understand how far a potential attack can go.
  4. Maintaining access - Try to stay in the system for an extended period, mimicking advanced persistent threats.
  5. Analysis - Document the findings, detailing vulnerabilities, successfully exploited areas, and data accessed.

The beauty of these two strategies is that they empower financial institutions to improve their defences continually.

It's a never-ending cycle: Assess, Test, Patch, Repeat.

This proactive approach helps organisations stay one step ahead, making sure their financial data - and reputation - remain well-protected in a digital world.

3. Provide regular security awareness training for employees 

Employees often represent the first line of defence for your business against cyber threats. As such, regular security awareness training is essential.

But, how do you make sure your training is effective? Here are the five pillars of a successful security awareness training program:

  1. Frequency - Make security training a recurring event. Whether it's monthly, quarterly, or biannually, keep it consistent and in the calendar.
  2. Current affairs - Inject real-world incidents into your training. After all, there’s no better way to underscore the importance of cybersecurity than showcasing actual events. 
  3. Practical exercise - Move beyond theory into practice. Conduct phishing simulations or password audits to let employees apply what they've learned.
  4. Engagement - Make training sessions interactive and engaging. Use quizzes, games, and rewards to encourage participation. Remember, learning doesn't have to be boring!
  5. Feedback - Solicit feedback and use it to improve future training sessions.

Think of regular security awareness training as an investment. An investment in your employees, in your cybersecurity posture, and ultimately, in the trust of your customers.

Explore: Why OT Cyber Security Is The Key To Operational Resilience

4. Embrace artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning

In the realm of cybersecurity, where threats evolve faster than humanly possible to keep up with, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have emerged as knights in shining armout.

AI for threat detection and prevention

Artificial Intelligence is like your very own cybersecurity Sherlock Holmes. It can:

  • Assess huge amounts of data with the help of dedicated server at a rapid speed to find any patterns that indicate a threat
  • Detect threats and respond to them in real-time, prior to any significant damage being caused
  • Continually learn from each interaction, becoming smarter and more effective over time

Machine learning - Spotting the outliers

Machine learning excels in anomaly detection or spotting the 'odd one out.’

You can use it to:

  • Learn what 'normal' behaviour looks like for your network or systems
  • Alert your team whenever it sees something out of the ordinary, such as a user suddenly accessing a large volume of data
  • Adapt to new 'normals' as your organisation evolves, ensuring that it remains effective even as your systems and behaviours change

Ai-powered incident response

When a breach does occur, AI comes to the rescue yet again, powering your incident response efforts.

It can help to:

  • Automatically isolate affected systems to contain the threat
  • Support the investigation by rapidly pulling together relevant data
  • Identify the root cause to prevent similar incidents in the future

Embracing AI and machine learning in your cybersecurity strategy is like adding a digital superhero to your team. This superhero never sleeps, continually learns, and always adapts, providing an invaluable line of defence in an increasingly complex cyber landscape.

But remember, even superheroes work better as part of a team. AI and machine learning are most effective when they're used alongside other best practices for cybersecurity compliance.

5. Use the blockchain to ensure secure transactions

Think of blockchain technology as a digital vault and a crystal-clear window rolled into one.

This revolutionary technology's decentralised structure makes it nearly immune to tampering, while its unique ledger system offers a fully transparent, unchangeable record of all transactions.

These features turn blockchain into a formidable shield against fraud and financial wrongdoing.

Extra reading: Why Should You Care About Blockchain?

Weaving blockchain into the fabric of your financial institution

Blockchain brings an array of security benefits to the table, but integrating it into traditional financial infrastructures is a daunting undertaking.

Yet, those who are bold enough to thread this technology into their systems can anticipate bolstered data integrity, increased transparency in transactions, and a substantial uplift in their cybersecurity armour.

Despite its initial challenges, adopting blockchain is a forward-looking investment that could yield substantial dividends in the long run.

Achieve financial cybersecurity compliance with these best practices

Financial cybersecurity compliance is an ongoing process. It requires continuous effort to stay ahead of evolving threats.

Supplementary reading: How To Perform A Cybersecurity Risk Assessment

Staying informed about the latest trends and technologies can help financial institutions anticipate and prepare for emerging threats.

From AI and blockchain to new regulations and standards, staying up-to-date and implementing robust cybersecurity practices is essential.

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Kerry Leigh Harrison has over 11+ years of experience as a content writer. She graduated from university with a First Class Hons Degree in Multimedia Journalism. In her spare time, she enjoys attending sports and music events.

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