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What is Financial Service Cybersecurity?

What is Security Finance?

Security finance, often referred to as financial cybersecurity, involves the protection of financial institutions and their clients from cyber threats. This encompasses a broad range of measures aimed at safeguarding the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of sensitive financial data and systems. Financial institutions, including banks, credit unions, insurance companies, and investment firms, manage vast amounts of sensitive data and large financial transactions daily, making them prime targets for cybercriminals.

Financial services cybersecurity is essential for preventing banking cyber-attacks, ensuring the security of online and mobile banking platforms, and protecting internal networks and databases from unauthorized access. Crucially, security efforts are aimed at preventing data breaches, financial fraud, and other cyber-attacks that could compromise the safety and trustworthiness of a firm.

Challenges of securing financial services

Financial services regularly tops lists of sectors most targeted by cyber-criminals, with this industry subject to attacks from a broad range of actors, from organized and well-funded cyber-criminal groups with financial goals, to hacktivist groups seeking to cause disruption and wreak havoc in the markets.  

Wide variety of sophisticated threats: Security professionals in this industry are tasked with fending off a number of threat vectors, including targeted and convincing phishing emails, cloud-based attacks, and ransom- ware, which has rebounded with new severity in recent years. Sophisticated strains such as Maze and Ryuk are constantly being tweaked, and attackers are increasingly adopting ‘double extortion’ tactics to gain maximum leverage. The devastating repercussions of these attacks have been felt by some of the largest financial organizations around the globe, with threat actors exfiltrating and releasing millions of customers’ data in a single attack

Rapid digital transformation and supply chains present additional risks: 2020 marked a watershed moment for many as threat actors used a vulnerability in SolarWinds’ software to compromise thousands of organizations, including banks and other financial institutions. The attack had gone unnoticed for several months, and to many this served as a wakeup call that an approach based on manual rules and lists of signatures is no longer enough to combat the modern threat landscape.  

Adoption of cloud technologies: Most financial services organizations now rely on cloud services to carry out daily operations, but the security implications of this transformation are significant, expanding the attack surface for threat actors, who can pivot through different areas of the digital estate to evade detection.  

Customers readily trust financial services with highly sensitive information. As threat actors continue to innovate, organizations must seek to protect that data with technology that can keep up with constant attacker innovation and cover all corners of digital infrastructure – from email and cloud to the corporate network and remote endpoints. Taking the right approach to cyber security is crucial not only in preventing data loss and steep ransom demands, but in avoiding broader cyber disruption that can grind operations to a halt.  

Importance of cybersecurity in financial services

Protecting sensitive data: Financial institutions handle sensitive data such as customer personal information, transaction details, and financial records. This data is highly valuable to cybercriminals who can use it for fraudulent activities such as identity theft and financial fraud. Cybersecurity teams at financial firms aim to ensure that this data is encrypted, securely stored, and accessible only to authorized personnel. This helps prevent data breaches and unauthorized access, thereby protecting both the institution and its customers.

Preventing financial loss: Cybercriminals can steal money directly from bank accounts, manipulate transaction records, or use stolen credit card information for fraudulent purchases. Additionally, data breaches can result in hefty regulatory fines, legal fees, and compensation costs. Implementing robust cybersecurity for financial services helps prevent these attacks and mitigate their impact, thereby safeguarding the institution’s financial stability and stopping additional fallout and reputational damage associated with a cyber breach.

Maintaining consumer trust: Trust is a cornerstone of the financial services industry. Customers need to trust that their financial information is secure and that their transactions are conducted safely. A cybersecurity breach can severely damage this trust, leading to a loss of customers and a tarnished reputation. By investing in strong cybersecurity measures, financial institutions can assure their customers that their data is safe, thereby maintaining and even enhancing consumer trust.

Regulatory compliance: Financial institutions operate in a highly regulated environment. Regulatory bodies such as the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) impose strict guidelines to ensure the security and integrity of financial systems. Compliance with these regulations often requires robust cybersecurity measures, including regular security audits, data encryption, and secure authentication processes. Non-compliance can result in significant fines and legal repercussions, making cybersecurity an essential component of regulatory adherence.

Enhancing operational efficiency: Strong cybersecurity practices not only protect financial institutions from cyber-attacks but also enhance their operational efficiency. When systems and data are secured, institutions can ensure uninterrupted services and minimize downtime caused by cyber incidents. This is crucial for maintaining customer satisfaction and confidence.  

Future-proofing against emerging threats: As technology evolves, so do the methods used by cybercriminals. Financial institutions must stay ahead of these emerging threats by continuously updating their cybersecurity strategies. Investing in advanced cybersecurity for financial institutions ensures that they are prepared to tackle new and sophisticated cyber-attacks. This proactive approach not only protects the institution but also helps in building a resilient and secure financial ecosystem.

Common Cyber Attacks in Banks

As financial institutions continue to embrace digital transformation, the landscape of cyber threats has evolved significantly. Banks, in particular, face a variety of sophisticated cyber-attacks that target their valuable data and financial assets. Understanding these common cyber-attacks is crucial for developing effective defense strategies and maintaining the integrity of financial services. Below, we explore the most prevalent cyber threats that banks encounter and the potential impact of these attacks.

Phishing AttacksPhishing attacks are one of the most common cyber-attacks in banks. Phishing is the process of sending fraudulent emails, while posing as legitimate senders, to convince people to reveal sensitive information such as passwords, social security numbers, bank account information, and more. Phishing attacks often target both bank employees and customers, exploiting human vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access to accounts.

Malware and Ransomware: Malware and ransomware attacks involve the introduction of malicious software into a bank's network. Malware can steal sensitive data, disrupt operations, and grant unauthorized access to cybercriminals. Ransomware encrypts files and demands a ransom for their release. These attacks can cripple banking operations and result in significant financial losses.

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attacks: DDoS attacks overwhelm a bank's online services with excessive traffic, rendering them inaccessible to legitimate users. These attacks can disrupt online banking services, causing inconvenience to customers and financial losses to the bank. DDoS attacks are often used as a smokescreen to distract from more targeted cyber-attacks.

Insider Threats: Insider threats originate from within the organization, often involving employees or contractors who have authorized access to sensitive systems and data. These threats can be intentional or accidental, but they pose a significant risk due to the insider's knowledge of the bank's systems and processes. Insider threats can lead to data breaches, financial fraud, and other malicious activities and are extremely difficult to detect because they often use legitimate credentials.  

Social Engineering: Social engineering attacks manipulate individuals into divulging confidential information or performing actions that compromise security. Tactics include pretexting, baiting, and tailgating. Social engineering exploits human psychology to bypass technical security measures, making it a significant threat in the banking sector.

9 cybersecurity solutions for financial services

Given the multitude of cyber threats facing financial institutions, it is imperative to implement robust cybersecurity measures to protect sensitive data and ensure operational continuity. Various cybersecurity solutions are available, each tailored to address specific vulnerabilities and enhance overall security posture. In this section, we will discuss nine essential cybersecurity solutions that financial institutions can adopt to safeguard against cyber attacks and maintain the trust of their customers.

1. Web Application Firewalls (WAF)

A WAF acts as a protective barrier between a web application and the internet, monitoring and filtering traffic to prevent common web-based attacks such as cross-site scripting (XSS) and SQL injection. Regular security audits and policy updates are essential to maintain the effectiveness of WAFs.

2. DDoS Protection

DDoS protection solutions monitor network traffic for unusual spikes and reroute suspicious traffic to minimize disruption. This ensures the continued availability of services during an attack.

3. Anti-Fraud and Online Fraud Prevention

Anti-fraud solutions use advanced analytics and machine learning to detect and prevent fraudulent activities in real-time. By identifying suspicious patterns, these solutions help financial institutions take immediate action to prevent financial losses.

4. Identity and Access Management (IAM)

IAM frameworks manage electronic identities and access to resources, ensuring that only authorized individuals have access to sensitive data and systems. Multi-factor authentication (MFA) and single sign-on (SSO) are key components of IAM.

5. Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) Solutions

ATP solutions combine technologies such as endpoint protection, network security, and email security to detect and prevent sophisticated cyber threats. Real-time threat intelligence and automated response capabilities enhance the institution’s ability to safeguard against advanced threats.

6. Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing (VAPT)

VAPT involves identifying and addressing vulnerabilities in a system to secure critical data and meet regulatory compliance. This proactive approach helps prevent data breaches by neutralizing potential threats before they cause damage.

7. Security Awareness and Training Programs

Educating employees about cyber threats and best practices is essential to maintaining a secure environment. Regular training programs help staff recognize and respond to cyber risks, protecting sensitive financial data.

8. Data Activity Monitoring

Monitoring and recording all database activities in real-time helps detect and prevent unauthorized access or manipulation of data. This ensures the integrity and confidentiality of financial data.

9. Data Risk Analytics

Analyzing data to identify potential risks and threats allows for proactive risk management. Advanced algorithms and machine learning techniques help detect patterns and anomalies that may indicate a cyber threat.

Pros and cons for AI in financial cybersecurity

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has emerged as a powerful tool in the realm of financial cybersecurity, offering advanced capabilities for threat detection and response. However, like any technology, AI comes with its own set of advantages and challenges. To fully harness the potential of AI in securing financial services, it is important to understand both its benefits and its limitations. In the following section, we will examine the pros and cons of integrating AI into financial cybersecurity strategies, providing a balanced perspective on its role in protecting financial institutions.


Enhanced threat detection: AI can analyze vast amounts of data in real-time to detect potential threats that human analysts might miss. Machine learning algorithms can identify patterns indicative of cyber-attacks, allowing for quicker and more accurate threat detection.

It is important to note that different forms of AI enable unique forms of threat detection. Common across most vendors, supervised machine learning pulls together massive amounts of data to train the AI to detect indicators of compromise. While this method is more effective than legacy solutions, it falls short of detecting insider threats and novel attacks because it relies on historical attack data.

Unsupervised machine learning is used by Darktrace to overcome this discrepancy. Darktrace’s AI learns how your organization works, constantly learning based on real time network activity detecting anomalies that it finds. This way, threat detection is anomaly-based, and is not chasing after attackers who can evade systems by using sophisticated and targeted attacks.

Automated responseAI can automate responses to common threats, reducing the time it takes to mitigate an attack. Automated systems can isolate compromised systems, block malicious traffic, and alert security teams to take further action.

Improved fraud detection: AI-driven systems can analyze transaction data to detect unusual patterns that may indicate fraudulent activity. This is particularly useful in preventing banking cyber-attacks and reducing financial losses due to fraud.

Scalability: AI systems can scale easily to handle large volumes of data and adapt to new threats. This makes them ideal for financial institutions with extensive and complex IT infrastructures.


High implementation costs: Implementing AI-driven cybersecurity solutions can be costly. The initial investment in hardware, software, and skilled personnel can be a significant barrier for smaller financial institutions.

False positives: AI systems can sometimes generate false positives, flagging legitimate activities as potential threats. This can lead to unnecessary disruptions and require human intervention to resolve.

Dependence on data quality: AI systems rely heavily on the quality and quantity of data they are trained on. Inaccurate or insufficient data can lead to incorrect threat assessments and responses. Some AI is trained on attack data while Darktrace uses your business data to build an understanding of normal.

Ethical concerns: The use of AI in cybersecurity raises ethical concerns related to privacy and the potential for misuse. Financial institutions must ensure that their AI systems are used responsibly and transparently.

How Darktrace protects financial institutions

Relied on by some of the world’s largest financial services organizations, Darktrace is uniquely positioned to defend against the full range of cyber-threats. The Darktrace ActiveAI Security Platform prevents, detects, responds, and helps recover from cyber-attacks. Using Self-Learning AI Darktrace detects emerging malicious activity, reacting in seconds to protect organizations from zero-day exploits, insider threats, and machine-speed ransomware.  

With an intuitive user interface, Darktrace provides organizations with complete visibility of their dynamic workforce. Operative across the cloud, SaaS, IoT, endpoint devices, email, and the traditional network, Darktrace protects organizations’ data and digital systems wherever they are located.  

Darktrace also supports financial services organizations’ compliance with regulations such as the CPPA, GDPR, NYDFS 500, and more.  

Learn more by reading the Financial Services data sheet here.

Related glossary terms

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