Insider Threat and Cyber Security Issues in the Financial Industry

Insider Threat and Cyber Security Issues in the Financial Industry

Finance industry depends heavily on data. Well, nowadays almost all companies rely on data to some extent, but finance companies literally live on data. This is why protecting their data is crucial to not only their security but also their existence. This makes cyber-security a high priority for them.

Let’s think of a castle with high, strong fortified walls, heavily protected gates, well-trained guards and security personnel inside and ditches and trenches around it for even further stronger defences. Now imagine that this castle is your company. You would probably feel safe even against big armies. But would all these defensive measures work against a spy? Probably not even the least bit. This is what the concept of an insider threat feels like.

Insiders threats are the malicious threats to an organization that comes from people within the organization, such as employees, former employees, contractors or business associates, who have inside information concerning the organization’s security practices, data and computer systems. In that regard, they are the equivalent of a spy or a collaborator in sense of a war or battle.

Insider threats are more dangerous than outside threats because these are the people you have intendedly gave access to your company and its data. As the definition suggests, insiders also get familiar with a company’s security measures and procedures so they can get around them more easily.

What Motivates an Insider Threat?

An insider threat may occur in an extended timespan, but it can also occur instantly. A regular hard working employee may become an insider threat instantly or at least much more quickly. According to a report issued by Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute, 81% of the time, the motives or goals behind an insider threat is financial. People may have financial difficulties or they may think that they are not being paid fairly. Sometimes they simply want more money.

There are also other reasons. People are emotional creatures and these emotions sometimes make them act drastically. According to the same report we mentioned, beyond financial gain, in 23% of the incidents, the motivation was revenge, in 15% dissatisfaction with the company management, culture, or policies and in another 15% is the desire for respect.

While handling employees’ work-related issues is the job of the HR department, no one can surely know how another person feels or what they think. And since human emotions are subjective, there is no way to make sure every employee is satisfied with their jobs and income. It is also not possible to know if they are having any financial problems or not.

How to Prevent Insider Threats?

It seems fairly possible and easy to exploit insider threats after they occur. In 74% of the cases, after detection, the insiders’ identities were obtained using system logs. But the damage is done when it’s done. The monetary loss may seem like the obvious damage in their case but there are more harmful and indirect damages such as losing a business partner, losing reputation, customers or future business opportunities. These indirect losses create far bigger losses in the long term.

Insider threats don’t only occur intentionally. They may occur because of simple human negligence or incompetence. Although they may seem like honest mistakes, these may result in the financial organization they work in to be subject to fraud and anti-money laundering charges.

According to research conducted by Kaspersky 52% of businesses admit that employees are their biggest weakness in cybersecurity. There are things that financial companies can do to prevent possible cybersecurity threats and other kinds of insider threats.

Educating Employees

More than half of the incidents they looked into were accidental rather than being malicious. Since there is no way to completely eliminate cybersecurity risks, educating employees has a key role in prevention. Preparing clear guidelines on processes and recognizing suspicious emails and programs by running phishing and social engineering tests can go a long way to improve cybersecurity.

Visible Employee Behaviour

Employees who handle a huge amount of data are the biggest vulnerabilities when it comes to insider threats and cybersecurity. Their attitude in case of an audit or activity monitoring may be an indicator.

Restricting Access Is A key to Cybersecurity

Access restriction and limited authorization is also a crucial element of cybersecurity. Multiple levels of authorization ensure that data irrelevant to specific roles or employees are locked out. Combined with the other methods this may improve the effectiveness of cybersecurity.

Defining One of the Biggest Threats: AML (Anti Money Laundering)

As we mentioned above not all cyber threats occur from malicious intent or activity. Financial companies handle delicate and complex operations that are susceptible to human negligence or error. Sometimes financial companies or employees just become unaware instruments of malicious financial activities.

Know Your Client is a solid way to and the first step to preventing to become instruments for money laundering operations. KYC rules are applied to establish the essential facts of each customer before any recommendations are made at the beginning of a relationship with a client. The essential facts are those required to effectively service the customer’s account and to be aware of any special handling instructions for the account.

Using Machine Learning and AI for AML Compliance

Cybersecurity threats and even insider threat may root from outside behaviour. A company can keep strict restrictions and sustain a heavy monitoring regimen on its employees. But this may have some negative effects on their employees.

One may think that a person without a malicious intent shouldn’t be bothered or worried by any kind of monitoring or audit, but the feeling of constantly being monitored has its effects on people.

In an ideal and simplified situation all employees in a company will go on with their jobs, would have no malicious intent and they would be competent and educated on their jobs. You can also exploit the details of any harmful activity after it’s conducted. But how can you prevent these activities beforehand? How can you protect your company? And also how can you protect your employees even from themselves?

Taking advantage of artificial intelligence and machine learning is a good measure. Companies like Fineksus have a history of offering anti-money laundering compliance services for banks and all kinds and sizes of other financial companies.

The advantage of the solutions Fineksus provide is that they examine vast amounts of activities and recognize the patterns that are signs of suspicious financial activities.

Fineksus’ software doesn’t monitor people and keeps them under constant watch. Instead, they monitor financial activities themselves and intervene where negligence and errors may occur. And they focus on preemptively detecting these activities, not exploiting them after the fact. So Fineksus solutions is a good way to protect your company and your employees.

If we go back to the castle metaphor above, you can think of Fineksus solutions as your company’s intelligence service. It focuses on collecting intelligence about the suspicious activity within the confines of your fortified walls. It protects the citizens, in this case, which are employees, from becoming the instruments of malicious intent.

Having strong walls and defence against outside threats are good. But, with a solution like this, you are also protected from insider threats and detect these threats before they tear down your walls.

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