Nick Hammond, lead advisor for financial services at World Wide Technology, discusses the steps financial services firms need to take to overcome the rising threat of cyber security breaches.

Posted by Global Banking and Finance Review on May 30, 2018:

More than four in ten businesses experienced a cybersecurity breach over the last year, according to The Government's Cyber Security Breaches survey.

Investment in cybersecurity by finance and insurance firms doubled in the last year, and 51 percent of businesses have implemented all the five basic technical controls listed under the Government endorsed Cyber Essentials scheme.[1]

But this is not enough to keep modern IT systems secure. Changes to the way financial services firms use technology means that information cannot simply be kept on a closed system and protected from external threats by a firewall. Data now regularly goes beyond the four walls of a company and is shared across thousands of locations. Multiple third parties, such as credit ratings services or interbank payment systems, need access to data to provide their services. It is also shared with employee and customer devices through mobile banking apps and bring-your-own-device solutions. This makes the traditional "firewall" approach to protecting IT systems outdated, as it leaves firms susceptible to attacks. There must be a fundamental rethink in the approach to security.

It is no longer possible to draw a perimeter around the whole system, so instead each individual application has to be protected and only allowed to share data with other applications that need it.

The sprawling, interdependent nature of modern financial IT infrastructures means creating this boundary and these permissions is often easier said than done. Over the years, programmers have had to keep up with each new software development that comes along, and integrate each of them into the system. But no one has had an end plan in mind for the larger architecture. What began as relatively simple structures twenty years ago have been patched and re-patched in various guises and stitched together. The teams who setup the original systems have often moved on from the firm, and their knowledge of the original body has gone with them.

This means that trying to isolate one application within the system architecture in order to secure it can mean something else simply stops working. For example, e-commerce systems often rely on credit card databases to work and would stop working if the communication between the two was cut off in the interest of security.

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