Banking on Security – Cyber Safety in Finance

In May of 2020, Bank of America disclosed a data breach that occurred when they uploaded data for individuals who applied to their Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) onto the US Small Business Administration’s test platform. While the total number of impacted individuals is not known, the total number of applicants to this relief program who could have potentially been affected is more than 305,000 people.

In early 2019, Capital One experienced a data breach that was later determined to have compromised over 100 million records. The breach released information including roughly 140,000 Social Security as well as 80,000 bank account numbers. This data breach has been linked to poor security operations at the bank dating back more than half a decade.

While these are just a couple of the larger breaches in recent history, they highlight an underlying issue for the banking and finance industries — these entities are not prioritizing cybersecurity in their operations as much as they should. Every industry in the world should have a focus on cybersecurity as every company in existence has the potential to be the cybercriminals’ next target of attack; the finance and banking industries have the responsibility to take this one step further as they not only hold within their networks some of our most private and personal information, but they are the very people we trust to hold our money which we depend on to live our lives.

There are actions that can be taken by the companies in the Finance industry to help protect their users’ data, the first of which is being aware of the threats that are facing them on a daily basis.

Finance Industry Cyber Threats & Tips

The top cyber threats looming in the shadows for banking and financial services companies include:

  1. Web Application Attacks, a vulnerability due to the fact that online applications are so easy to use — this also makes them easy to hack.
  2. DDoS Attacks, where hackers take over multiple Internet of Things (IoT) devices and utilize them to overwhelm websites and make them unusable by legitimate customers. With such an emphasis on the use of online banking, availability of the financial services websites is crucial for successful operations at a bank.
  3. Malware, where cybercriminals try and infect a bank’s systems with malicious software to disable operations or steal sensitive information.

Personal Financial Cybersecurity Safety Tips

While it is important for these companies to be aware of the threats they face, it is clear that even a company who emphasizes cybersecurity can have attacks slip through the cracks. Because of this, it is important for you as a user to take necessary steps to protect your personal and financial data.

  • Keep your login information up-to-date — Keeping your login information unique, complex, and updated is one of the best ways to protect your personal and financial information from a cyber threat.
  • Monitor your bank accounts often — Online banking can be a great tool to help you keep track of your transactions in real time. Being aware of fraudulent activity on your cards is something that should happen sooner than later, so be sure to monitor bank accounts often.
  • Shred your paper bank information — Malicious people are not just online; a person may find your information in the trash or around your home. For this reason, shredding your paper statements and bank account information is incredibly important for your personal security. An alternative to shredding is using the online statement functions offered by most banks. Not only do you protect yourself more, but you help to save the environment as well.
  • Monitor your credit reports — Reviewing your credit reports (that are free to you annually) can help you to identify fraudulent use of your Social Security number and other personal information for larger scale issues than those that can be identified by viewing your bank account. A malicious person could have used your stolen information to apply for a bank loan, mortgage, or credit card without your knowledge — be sure to review your credit reports to be sure you are not a victim of such an attack.
  • Invest in Identity Theft Protection — In the same way reviewing your credit reports can help you identify when your information has been stolen and used, investing in Identify Theft Protection can help further protect you by identifying when a person has compromised your identity even without you having to address it by reviewing a credit report. Many banks offer this for free or for discounted prices to their users — it is very much worth investing in this.

Image by pch.vector for Freepik.