The Impact of the Human Element on Cybersecurity Assurance in the Financial Services Industry

The Internet has revolutionized communication and streamlined business operations across several industries. Although processes and technologies have helped to improve collaboration and productivity, the world still faces the ever-changing challenges associated with cybersecurity and ‘human factors’ as it relates to the confidentiality, integrity, availability and privacy of critical business assets

Technology solutions, no doubt, are essential in protecting organizations from costly cybersecurity breaches. However, ‘people’ play a crucial role in securing the enterprise network periphery from cybercriminal activities within the financial sector. In a study by IBM, 95% of cybersecurity breaches were found to be linked to ‘human error.’

Additionally, according to the IT Security Risks Survey 2017 from Global Data, every one-in-ten severe cyber-incidents that occurred in 2019 involved careless employees. Therefore, organizations can avoid 19 out of 20 breaches if a single element is reduced or eliminated: human error.

How Humans Could Be The Weakest Link In Cybersecurity

When it comes to driving the balance of people, processes, and technology, dealing with the ‘people’ part of the equation (i.e., employees, customers, contractors, etc.) becomes critical due to the differences in intention and motivation. Therefore, the cybersecurity awareness education of an organization’s workforce is at the core of a healthy corporate cybersecurity strategy.

The following are key factors that causes an increase in human-centered vulnerabilities within cybersecurity:

  • Inadequately Trained Cyber Security Staff: this causes small and mid-sized enterprises to lack the necessary tools required to combat the basic cybersecurity threats, thus resulting in devastating consequences to critical business operations. The team of cybersecurity specialists at GoldSky Security are equipped with niche expertise to provide targeted security awareness training, which covers all facets of information security. Leveraging our expert advice is a cost effective solution for the security assurance of your financial services company.
  • Sophisticated social engineering threats: advanced persistent threat (APT) actors leverage deceptive tactics to manipulate the human psyche into disclosing sensitive and confidential information. According to a report by Akamai, 52% of successful phishing attacks lure victims into clicking malicious urls within an hour.
  • Data spillage: data breaches often begin with data theft or loss, due to acts of disgruntled employees or accidental discharge of corporate data – this also include sharing of access control credentials, which upends security controls set in place to regulate authorized access to data.

So, What is at Stake?

People, processes, and technologies make up the triad that help organizations align security goals with business objectives. The human element within the triad, ‘people,’ is the most critical aspect of the triad and in the security chain because they are the first and last line of defense when dealing with vast amounts of financial data on a daily basis. Therefore, the mishandling of critical financial data could rapidly morph into security breaches, thus resulting in very costly business losses, including:

  • Regulatory penalties and compliance-related lawsuits
  • Theft of business secrets and intellectual property (IP)
  • Loss of customer trust and business reputation
  • Financial losses in ransomware payments

Cybersecurity Mitigations for ‘Human’ Risks in Financial Services Organizations

Mitigating the risks of human errors and cybersecurity incidents resulting from it can quickly become a daunting business expense, especially without considering certain key factors. For instance, it is imperative to understand that employees and clients are critical assets to any organization because they are privy to sensitive information and are oftentimes in close proximity to large amounts of data. Thus, this makes humans a key factor in the defense against cyberattacks.

Therefore, to foster a robust cybersecurity framework within a small to mid-sized financial services company,  human impact must be integrated into cyber-risk mitigation strategies. The following are key cybersecurity risk mitigation strategies for SMEs in the financial services sector:

  • Development and implementation of security policies, procedures, and best practices (in compliance with PCI-DSS standards). This strategy must have the support of senior management in order to gain company-wide relevance and visibility.
  • Proper training and education of key players handling sensitive financial information (e.g., card payment information, PIIs and bank account details, etc.) – this includes understanding detection and response protocols against malicious activities.
  • Installation of hardware and/or software-based anti-virus or anti-malware solutions.
  • Enforcement of strong passwords and multi-factor authentication (MFA) to protect sensitive financial data.
  • Instituting a robust vulnerability patching schedule for active systems.

Benefits of Cybersecurity Assurance For Financial Service Organizations

Accounting for the human element of cyber security notifies stakeholders of the risks and rewards associated with quantifying the effects of enterprise assets. Secondly,  it helps to provide a clear explanation for decisions that facilitate disruptive business activities.

The following are some of the benefits possible through cybersecurity assurance:

  • Robust Corporate Cybersecurity Posture: maintaining a hardened computing environment is proven to withstand the threats associated with business operations powered by the internet. Through cybersecurity assurance, small to mid-sized organizations are able to institute best practices that reduce attack vectors thus, preventing successful attacks from the (4) horsemen of cybersecurity.
  • Reduced Business Disruptions: cyberthreats cause considerable disruption to business services, which are crucial for day-to-day operation. To maintain business continuity in the face of a global crisis, GoldSky is capable of assessing complex business environments to ascertain the efficient deployment of customized countermeasures within all domains of cybersecurity.
  • Curb On Financial Losses: the human factor in cyber security is of utmost priority for any organization, and it must be carefully considered to avoid losses related to regulatory fines and lawsuits, cyberattacks, and customer mistrust.
  • Increased Customer Confidence And Trust: Cybersecurity assurance provides an extra layer of confidence and trust from customers. Demonstrating proactive cybersecurity assurance measures signals that an organization is in alignment with the safety and security of customers’ personal information.

In Closing

The rate of digital transformation for a business depends upon the velocity of moving from traditional technology controls to modern technology-based solutions. Historically speaking, the rate at which digital transformation occurs within the financial services industry appears to be much slower due to very strict security and privacy regulations and compliance requirements. Thus, many small and mid-sized financial services organizations may find it difficult to assess the level of security controls required to protect their computing environment.

Additionally, the consideration of human resources within said computing environment introduces more complexities that are proven to overwhelm leadership teams. Well, that is where the targeted expertise of GoldSky cybersecurity professionals can be leveraged to help in the assessment and mitigation of cyber-risks associated with human elements.

With offices in Denver, Orlando, Tampa, Nashville and Washington D.C GoldSky offers reliable 24/7/365 security solutions to the entire US.

Get in touch to learn more about how GoldSky can keep your data secure today. 



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