What You Need To Know About Cybersecurity in Banking

When your organization operates in the financial industry, you can’t take cybersecurity lightly. Here’s what you need to know to keep your operations and data protected.

The Importance of Cybersecurity in Banking

Banking is subject to some of the strictest regulations and standards of any industry in regards to data security and protection. Yet in spite of this, financial institutions remain a high-value target for cybercriminals due to the amount of money at stake. Cybercriminals make it their full-time job to find exploits and vulnerabilities in the networks of financial institutions, and that’s why you need a full-time team dedicated to identifying and remediating weak points in the system before they can be exploited.

In the words of Ron O’Hanley, the CEO of State Street Corporation, “You’re only as good as your weakest link. Networks are put together not just by what you’re doing, but the vendors you’re relying on, the counter-parties you’re dealing with, even regulators you’re dealing with,”

What’s the weakest link for your financial institution? Keep reading to make sure you’re doing your due diligence and staying protected in an always-changing threat landscape.

An Overview of Financial and Banking Cybersecurity Regulations

As previously mentioned, financial organizations are subject to strict regulations. Some of the most important and what types of organizations they apply to include:

  • ISO/IEC 27001: Not mandatory but an internationally recognized framework for financial institutions looking to reduce security risks and protect data.
  • NIST: Mandatory for all federal organizations and contractors but voluntary for private financial institutions.
  • SOX: Mandatory for all public financial institutions.
  • PCI DSS: Mandatory for any organization that processes customer credit card information.
  • BSA: Mandatory for financial institutions that accept money from customers, including national banks, federal branches, agencies of foreign banks, federal saving associations.
  • GLBA: Mandatory for all U.S.-based organizations that sell financial products and services.
  • FINRA: Mandatory for all financial brokers in the U.S. as part of licensing and registration.
  • PSD 2: Mandatory for all banks and financial institutions in the European Union.
  • EU- GDPR: Mandatory for financial institutions collecting or processing data from citizens of the European Union.
  • UK-GDPR: Mandatory for financial institutions collecting or processing data from individuals in the United Kingdom.
  • OSFI Self Assessments: Optional for financial institutions in Canada.
  • Bill C-11: If passed, will be mandatory for all financial organizations processing personal information in Canada.

What’s Changing in Banking Cybersecurity?

Not only are new regulations being added for financial institutions to comply with on an ongoing basis, the existing frameworks are also subject to change as new threats emerge. In other words, the two areas where things are subject to change in the financial industry are regulations and the threats they’re intended to guard against.

At the same time, just because an organization is compliant with regulatory frameworks does not mean its systems are entirely secure from threats. Threats evolve faster than the regulations as cybercriminals identify new opportunities and weak points. It’s important that organizations operating in financial sectors do not confuse regulatory compliance with security. While compliance is an excellent starting point, there’s always more your organization can be doing.

To help guard against ever-evolving threats, organizations should make sure to keep an eye on new and emerging threats on the horizon in order to identify and prioritize the ones most likely to jeopardize their success.

The Top Cyber Threats in Banking

To make sure your organization stays protected, you need to have an understanding of what you’re protecting against. Some of the most significant threats and risks in the financial industry include:

Unencrypted Data

When data is left unencrypted, it’s ripe for exploitation by cybercriminals. Even if seemingly innocuous data like surveillance systems is unencrypted, it can potentially be accessed and exploited by attackers to then compromise protected data or accounts. That’s why all information stored on the computers of financial institutions or online needs to be fully encrypted, even if it might seem harmless should it fall into the wrong hands.

Cloud-Based Attacks

As financial organizations make the move to cloud systems so employees and customers can more easily access information, that also means easier access for unauthorized individuals without the proper safeguards. As a result, cloud-based cyber attacks have become a common entry point for cybercriminals targeting financial institutions.

Supply-Chain Attacks

As discussed above, weak points in the system can also include vendors and partner organizations. Cybercriminals have turned to targeting financial institutions not always directly but indirectly by exploiting software vendors or other points along the supply chain. 


Through the above vectors, cybercriminals are able to deliver malicious attacks in an attempt to exploit money from the targeted organization. One of the most popular methods to achieve this is with ransomware. After gaining access to data, cybercriminals then encrypt it so that it can no longer be accessed by authorized users unless the organization pays a ransom to regain access.

It essentially equates to being locked out of  your own home or business by burglars and then being told the only way they’ll let you back in is by paying them an exorbitant fee. While you would call the police if that actually happened, the problem with ransomware is that it can often be planted anonymously, and there’s no way to guarantee that you’ll get your data back even after paying the ransom.

Phishing and Spoofing

Social engineering has always been a popular tactic for exploiting an organization’s security vulnerabilities, but cybercriminals have grown craftier in their strategies. Phishing attacks remain a popular vector but more advanced threats like spoofing have also emerged. These attacks can target both consumers as well as employees by sending out emails or links designed to impersonate trusted entities, but which actually lead to malicious links, attachments, or login pages.

Recommended reading: How To Prevent Phishing Attacks

Managed IT and Cybersecurity for Financial Institutions

Does your organization need help identifying weak links in your security posture? Meriplex is here to help with a fully managed approach to IT systems and security designed specifically for financial institutions. Get in contact with our team to start discussing your security goals.