Lessons Learned from the Latest Cyberattack Against SWIFT’s Customer Networks

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In today’s digital business environment, we are seeing cyberattacks grow in both number and sophistication. The financial services industry in particular is continuously under attack due to the value of its data and the holes in current defense systems.

Developing countries are attempting to solidify their place in the global economy by expanding their digital presences and connecting to worldwide financial networks. The security posture of the broader environment can be at risk due to their lack of proper security controls. One recent breach highlights this issue. Let’s take a look.

SWIFT Falls Victim to Attacks on the Edge

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication’s (SWIFT) network, which is a system that supports cross-border banking, recently fell victim to a malware attack that stole banking codes and created fake money transfers. The attack reportedly occurred within banks in India, Vietnam, Ecuador and Bangladesh, resulting in combined losses of $90 million for the latter two countries.

The core SWIFT network has always been diligent about implementing security controls. In fact, SWIFT has recently introduced a “…new online portal that encourages information sharing and offers an easier way for entities to access cybersecurity guidance,” as an effort to bolster financial institutions’ defenses.

However, the broader SWIFT network security is only as strong as those that are connecting to it. Smaller organizations that are connected at the edge of the network (such as the banks that were victimized) don’t always provide the same levels of security controls as the core SWIFT network, which could result in enormous risk.

Staying Protected with Talent and Technology

The financial services industry is constantly in the crosshairs of cyber criminals. The pressure for smaller countries and banks to compete through the use of a global banking forum is extremely high. Joining the SWIFT network to allow rapid and accurate banking transaction provides a method for them to effectively compete in the marketplace, but in order to do so, they must excel digitally. A lack of trained cybersecurity specialists around the globe presents a significant challenge in remaining secure while breaking into the digital frontier.

The demand for information security professionals is expected to grow by 53 percent through 2018 in the U.S. alone, according to an analysis of numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Currently, more than 209,000 cybersecurity jobs in the U.S. are unfilled, and postings are up 74 percent over the past five years. A report by Indeed reveals that the U.S. and Canada are the only countries studied in which the supply of job seekers exceeds 50 percent of employer demand.

Cybercriminals are well aware of these issues. The recent SWIFT network attack demonstrates the need to focus on weak points in developing countries and how they secure financial transactions. All it takes is one breach of their networks for cybercriminals to find their way in and cause havoc within their banking environment.

Investing in cybersecurity solutions is critical for banks connected to the SWIFT network. Those investments have to be very focused and accurate in order to effectively manage the constant pressure from cyber threats. While proper security controls can appear to create a large financial burden, the benefits are worth the expenditure.

An effective cybersecurity organization will create an environment that develops strong skillsets of existing resources within an organization. Security experts can become better prepared to fend off threats and manage the daily “business of the business” from a security program perspective. Effective training is also a critical feature of such a program. It is vital to build a workforce with the needed cybersecurity skills to serve current and future organizational needs.

Final Thoughts

Today’s emerging countries in the digital finance space should partner with mature cybersecurity vendors offering a wide range of security products and services. These capabilities leverage the best technology and knowledge base to empower our customers in their efforts to get the most out of existing IT teams, systems and security programs. Integrating new tools, pure threat research capabilities and effective training courses will prevent attacks and greatly reduce the risk posture of your IT environment. The result is a security portfolio that effectively manages the potential for millions of dollars of financial loss and protects the financial institution’s reputation.