While this benefits customers, employees, and businesses, it also creates new challenges for the financial services industry around ensuring network availability, performance, and security.
Today threat actors increasingly exploit vulnerabilities in the extended digital landscape and develop sophisticated attack campaigns to access critical assets. Financial organizations need a solution that can deliver the highest levels of digital services without putting themselves or their customers at risk.
IoT expands the threat landscape
Financial firms compete in a highly regulated and high-demand environment. To achieve a competitive edge, organizations need to increase their outreach and accessibility and therefore extend their digital footprints. This is where Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity comes in.
IoT technology enables banks to equip their branch offices with terminals and sensors for better customer support and to track the performance of equipment such as ATMs and smart payment terminals. Insurance companies can also leverage IoT sensors for services such as usage-based insurance or pay-as-you-drive policies. However, it is critical that the deployment of new technology does not reduce an organization’s security posture.
IoT rapidly expands a company’s IT attack surface because each new connected device represents a potential attack vector for cyber thieves to discover and exploit. In many cases, attackers utilize the vulnerabilities of an IoT device to move across the network to compromise more valuable assets laterally.
With expanding IoT, organizations are challenged to achieve comprehensive visibility of their entire IT landscape. Increasing external connectivity reduces assurance that all devices and systems have up-to-date software, firmware, and patches installed. As a result, threat actors have more potential vulnerabilities to exploit and uncover different attack paths in the core network.
Remote and hybrid working brings increased security risks
In addition to technology to enhance the user experience, the financial sector has also heavily invested in digitalizing working practices. According to recent survey reports, 69% percent of financial services companies allow their employees to work remotely at least once a week. While remote and hybrid working brings more flexibility and productivity to the industry, it also increases financial firms’ security risks.
When a large part of a team works outside the secure internal network perimeter, it is difficult to monitor their digital activities and ensure compliance. Employees often use their own devices and externally connect to the enterprise network using home broadband or unsecured public networks. The lines between home and work networks have blurred, leading to an increased and unmonitored attack surface for attackers. For example, threat actors can often exploit vulnerabilities in unmonitored endpoints and abuse access privileges to carry out sophisticated attacks.
Cyberthieves today identify and compromise interconnected personal devices using a vast array of advanced tools across the open and dark web that enable them to automatically scan and identify exposed remote devices connected to the Internet. From there, attackers look for exploits such as unpatched vulnerabilities or weak security policies that let them access the main IT network. Once this is achieved, they are free to execute a variety of attack tactics, such as data exfiltration or ransomware deployment.
Moreover, there is a proliferation of IoT devices in home networks. The networks at home are not segmented – the IoT devices and users’ corporate devices are typically connected to the same Wi-Fi access point without proper segmentation. If an attacker compromised the IoT devices at an employee’s home, there is a greater risk posed by the attacker to laterally move into the home network and find a way into the corporate devices, and from there, breach the corporate networks. Without proper Zero Trust Access enforced at the Edge, financial organizations will be exposed to an attack surface that is not adequately hardened and hence becomes the target of attackers.
5G adds critical risks to the mix
The security issues around IoT and remote working practices are challenging enough, but adding the global trend of 5G technology simply exacerbates the problem.
To support their ever-expanding digital footprints and facilitate IoT functions, financial organizations are becoming increasingly reliant on 5G networks due to their high-speed and reliable connectivity. The next-generation network features of 5G support enhanced IoT functionality and hyperconnectivity between smart devices. With an increased number of interconnected IoT devices comes a greater surface for exploitation attacks such as DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service), remote code execution, SQL injection, and Zero Day exploits. Exploiting vulnerabilities of any IoT device or system can allow attackers to laterally move across the entire network and access critical assets. As a result, threat actors can disrupt and overwhelm an entire network through a single external point of compromise.
Financial organizations must address the security issues created by larger and more complex networks to protect their customers. Achieving this requires a solution that can manage and secure expanding infrastructure without hampering growth or impacting network and application performance.
Gaining the triple crown of security, availability, and performance with SASE
Balancing performance and security are an on-going challenge for financial firms. They cannot risk having an unsecured customer service terminal connected to their network. On the other hand, complex or rigid security measures can render the device ineffective and negatively impact the customer experience. Cost is also an important consideration, especially when many devices are in use. If a financial organization has hundreds of devices, managing each one manually becomes an impossible task.
A rapidly growing technology known as unified Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) provides an effective solution to these challenges for the financial sector. This approach converges multiple network management and security functions into a single service that can be delivered entirely through the cloud. It is designed to integrate security and network performance, making it easier to perform key functions consistently, such as monitoring network traffic and restricting access without impacting network speed. By enforcing Zero Trust Access at the Edge, SASE significantly reduces the attack surface by enforcing Zero Trust principles such as device posture, user, location, and providing access based on the principle of least privilege instead of unlimited access to the whole network.
Unified SASE can also deliver network segmentation, creating a barrier between network areas. With segmentation in place, if an IoT device is compromised the attacker will be blocked from moving laterally into the rest of the network. A cloud-based deployment also means that all devices receive the same level of consistent security, providing security teams with complete visibility of the entire IT estate, including even the largest IoT suites.
Overall, unified SASE combines robust security posture with a next-gen network architecture approach that employs granular security and optimizes user experience to drive business performance. By integrating unified SASE solutions, financial organizations can achieve secure, scalable and reliable enterprise networking, while also ensuring security, segmentation and visibility across all interconnected assets within the network.
The ability to manage network and security functions through a single management console allows financial firms to better protect their interconnected devices. Armed with this power, financial organizations can increase their multi-cloud application performance and significantly reduce network management and operations costs.