Financial Institutions Need an Offensive Security Strategy


In 2019, First American Financial Corporation was breached and more than 885 million financial and personal records were exposed. It was the most significant cyber attack known to date for a financial institution and the repercussions still linger to this day. Major companies such as Robinhood, IRA Financial Trust, and others have experienced breaches in the last 12 to 18 months. The list continues to grow and shows few signs of slowing down. In fact, a report from BCG indicates that financial services organizations are 300 times more likely to be the victim of a cyber attack than other organizations. How can an offensive security strategy help?

Businesses dedicate only 11% of their IT budgets to cybersecurity and the majority prioritize defensive security. Of course, a strong defense is essential to protecting the perimeter and is important for monitoring response capability and reaction time. However, most organizations mistakenly overlook offensive security. Scanning networks for vulnerabilities should be considered a priority—auditing and conducting threat simulations to check what is and isn’t fortified provides valuable insight into numerous security perspectives within an organization.

Frequently Investing in Security

The only way to know if your organization is susceptible to threats is to have professional hackers with engineering and developer backgrounds, who are apt to think like the enemy, simulate attacks. And you can’t do it as a one-off. You need to invest regularly in continuous threat simulation that encapsulates planned and unplanned attacks. Criminal hackers don’t attack based on a schedule that suits your business. “Anytime, anywhere” is their mantra, and most professional hackers can infiltrate a network within 12 hours. Continuous threat simulation is the only way to identify weaknesses, thwart entry, and combat.

Automated tools can only go so far. They can’t conduct authentic threat simulations. They can’t be creative and make decisions on the fly, like developing code or finding ways to circumvent a system. With continuous threat simulation, people are at the core of the process, not just technology. Besides, simulating real-world attacks gives you insight into an attacker’s mind, which is exceptionally valuable as you plan your overall cybersecurity strategy. 

Below are three other reasons why adopting an offensive security strategy will improve your cybersecurity posture and prevent breaches.

Provides Better ROI

Continuous threat simulation provides valuable metrics, such as trends and historical data, which allow you to see how and when your security is failing. It also allows you to understand how an attacker got in. Organizations often make the same mistakes repeatedly and by having statistical highlights, you can budget finances and resources more accurately for the right solutions your business needs with better data. It also helps to educate your staff for the future so they can think more proactively.

Evaluates People and Processes

Another advantage of continuous threat simulations is that they don’t just look at technology problems; you can also evaluate people and processes that cause unauthorized access to assets. It’s far more beneficial and less costly for a trusted team to find vulnerabilities before criminals do. After all, 95% of cyber attacks occur due to human error. 

Reduces ancillary costs

When a breach happens, your business loses money, among other things. You need to shut down systems to identify the root cause of the breach, distribute additional resources to bring systems back online, and halt access to other parts of your environment. All of these moves take time and utilize resources. This doesn’t even consider the business losses that can occur if an actual breach occurs.

Remember, continuous threat simulation is not automated penetration testing or vulnerability scanning. It’s a dedicated team of individuals who ‘ethically hack’ your fortress. Businesses should start by engaging a team to conduct a baseline test to ensure their environment is not at immediate risk. Then, they should engage them at least once a month. This approach to cybersecurity will help your organization better prepare.

Considering only two years ago, the Financial Stability Board (FSB) warned that “a major cyber incident, if not properly contained, could seriously disrupt financial systems, including critical financial infrastructure, leading to broader financial stability implications.” With cyberattacks on the rise, this warning could become a reality if institutions don’t get more proactive.


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