Financial institutions are getting better at network security, so cybercriminals are taking an indirect approach to achieve their goals. They’re targeting unsuspecting employees who lack the skills to identify and prevent a phishing attack. This poses a serious threat to financial institutions and can lead to data breaches or financial losses.
To prevent phishing attacks, it’s essential for financial institutions to use both software and employee training. A combination of human and technical safeguards can reduce the risk of data falling into the wrong hands or financial fraud.
Here’s how financial institutions can best protect themselves against successful phishing attacks.
Phishing: An Ongoing Threat to Financial Institutions
The financial services industry is the most threatened sector when it comes to phishing attacks. According to a report by the Anti-Phishing Working Group, out of the 400 organizations they surveyed and were the targets of phishing attacks during the last quarter of 2017, 60 percent were financial institutions.
More important, however, is the shift on who bad actors are targeting. Hackers are switching their attacks from consumers to individuals within organizations, and are doing so through channels used by employees in their day-to-day tasks such as email and SaaS platforms.
The human factor continues to be a crucial weakness, based on Verizon’s 2018 Data Breach Investigations Report. Employees still fall victim to phishing attacks; with email as the main point of entry for 96 percent of these cases. Moreover, organizations are almost three times more susceptible to breaches from social attacks than from actual vulnerabilities.
All these show that financial institutions and their employees are the most exploitable and prominent targets. This emphasizes the need for an effective strategy that can help financial firms combat the growing sophistication of cybersecurity threats.
Phishing Attack Protection: Best Practices for Financial Institutions
Combining cybersecurity software with continual security awareness training for employees is key to safeguarding your organization from phishing attacks. Software or employee training alone can provide protection, but together, these elements comprise a stronger, more efficient defense.
Here are best practices that financial institutions can follow when implementing software and employee awareness to combat phishing attacks:
Cybersecurity Software for Financial Institutions
Here are technologies you can apply to prevent phishing attacks from breaching your organization’s network:
1. Spam filtering: Spam remains the most common method of spreading malware, leading unguarded users to seemingly legitimate websites designed to steal sensitive personal and company data. A spam filtering solution can keep your organization’s inboxes free from spam and phishing emails. Spam filtering services with real-time spam detection can even provide immediate protection from outbreaks.
2. Secure file transfer: Secure portals are alternatives to e-mails for sending and retrieving files between companies with high communications frequencies which can keep your organization safe from phishing attacks. Secure portals often offer encrypted transfer, encrypted storage, and role based access for delivery and retrieval of mission-critical files and data.
3. Advanced threat protection: To bolster your organization’s defenses against increasingly sophisticated phishing attacks, advanced threat protection is required. For instance, advanced threat protection technology reviews emails sent to your firm’s domain and ensures that the IP address and URL the email is coming from isn’t a known source of phishing emails. This stops the threat before it even reaches your network.
ZixProtect is an advanced threat protection solution that analyzes email attributes such as IP addresses and URLs, then examines email content for threat campaign patterns and targeted phrases, as well as known and zero-day malware attacks. To further increase its accuracy, ZixProtect employs automated traffic analysis, machine learning, and real-time threat analysis to deliver 99.5% accuracy in detecting of filtering out spam, viruses, phishing, zero-day malware, and ransomware. ZixProtect can also provide quarantine and sandbox analysis, and link protection from visiting malicious sites.
ZixProtect is also accommodating to financial institutions with its email encryption capabilities. Zix, a leader in email security, offers its ZixEncrypt product to satisfy email encryption needs. Zix’s email security solutions are used by FFIEC regulators and 30 percent of U.S. banks to protect private consumer data.
Additionally, Zix Protect and ZixEncrypt enable GLBA (Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act) compliance by scanning and identifying email messages containing GLBA-mandated customer information such as account numbers, refinance data, and other personal financial information. These emails can automatically be encrypted or quarantined based on the policy filters set by your organization.
Security Awareness Training for Employees
Here are steps you can take when training your employees on security awareness:
1. Conduct employee training on a quarterly basis. Due to the ever-evolving threat landscape, it’s generally recommended for employees to undergo security awareness training every quarter. It should be part of your organization’s onboarding process for new hires and a periodic undertaking from then on.
Ensure that your employees are trained not only on what the threats are and their mechanism but also on the costs and damages associated with these threats, as well as steps they can take as safeguards.
2. Continuously update your training program. Modify your training program as new threats come in. You should also take note of old attacks that have recently resurfaced or existing threats with altered signatures or behaviors.
3. Include safe email practices as part of the training. Reminders always help, so here are a few safe email practices for your employees to remember:
- Check the sender’s email address for misspellings or odd name variations.
- Don’t click on links or attachments unless you’ve verified the legitimacy of the sender.
- Report any suspicious emails to your IT department as soon as possible so they can take necessary actions.
- Refrain from replying to or forwarding any suspicious email you receive. Delete them instead.
Additionally, remind your employees of your organization’s established email policy so they know what to do when phishing attacks strike.
4. Work with a third-party organization to train your employees. You can assemble your own internal training team, but working with proven experts in the field can greatly benefit your organization. A firm experienced in working with financial institutions can assist you in developing and implementing a strong, consistent security awareness training program.
Integrating constant security awareness with cybersecurity software can be your organization’s best defense against phishing attacks. This combination can minimize your risks and keep you ahead of your game in protecting your network from current and future threats.
Trust DataComm to provide you with the protection you need to keep your network safe from phishing attacks. Our suite of email solutions provide enhanced email security, while our team of experts can help your financial institution deliver an effective security awareness training program. Get in touch with us today to learn more about how we can help you.