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Aligning Technology, People & Processes for Data Security

Combating today's hackers will take the right mix of technology, people, and processes.

It’s been a year now since the Target breach, and the frequency of data breaches continues to quicken while the stakes are getting higher and higher for banks.

“If you look at fraudsters, the pool of activities they are perpetrating is getting bigger and bigger, and it's getting close to commercial banking,” David O’Connell, senior analyst at Aite Group’s wholesale banking team, said during a panel discussion yesterday hosted by InformationWeek Financial Services and sponsored by Dell Financial Services.

“I think we’re getting close to a major breach at a commercial bank,” O’Connell observed. With commercial banking services like wire transfers becoming banks’ most profitable business, such an attack would cause major harm for an institution.

An infographic rendered by an an artist based on the data security panel discussion.
An infographic rendered by an an artist based on the data security panel discussion.

Commercial banking organizations are particularly vulnerable right now compared to retail banking ones, as many providers of security and fraud prevention solutions haven’t repurposed their retail banking solutions for the commercial side, O’Connell said.

[For more of our coverage on data security, check out: Must. Kill. Passwords.]

Plus there are powerful actors with huge resources that may look to attack banks without any aim of financial gain to begin with, Ben Feinstein, director, development and operations, Dell SecureWorks Counter Threat Unit, added during the panel discussion: “That’s really the great fear -- that a sovereign actor could burrow into our infrastructure and hurt us at a certain time.”

As difficult as the cyber security landscape looks, though, there is hope for institutions looking to defend their customers’ data and money. “It might seem that these criminals are omnipotent, but for them to really pull off a hack, to penetrate systems, surveil them, and manipulate them, they can’t do all of those things in complete stealth,” said Aite’s O’Connell.

For banks, technology won’t be the complete answer to protecting data from criminals. Having the right monitoring and employee training in place will be just as important, as banks will need to have the eyeballs on their systems to catch any intrusions.

“Technology by itself won’t solve the problem. It’s people and processes that are missing,” Dell’s Feinstein said. “If you look at the controls that you have in place, and you make people responsible and accountable, then you don’t necessarily need to buy the latest new product… Without good processes and training, the investments in new solutions won’t move the needle.”

There are new solutions coming to market that can help deal with the threat of data breaches, which are worth consideration. “What do you do if you already have an intrusion? How do you quarantine and remediate that? We’re seeing a lot of venture capital investment in network breach solutions that can help with that,” Dell Software Group's enterprise security specialist Alan Helman noted. “The successful solutions will really limit the number of alerts. The people who are responsible for monitoring these networks have so much information coming at them, they’re just getting bombarded. So the fewer red alerts for them to take action, that’s how you get the best ROI for that product set.”

Gaining better control over domain administration credentials, and preventing their reuse if compromised by hackers, is also a worthy investment, Dell’s Feinstein suggested. Many of the recent data breaches have been enabled by hackers stealing admin credentials to gain access to and manipulate sensitive information. “If there is one capability that you could change, it would have to be doing something to prevent the misuse and reuse of domain administrator credentials,” he said. “There are a lot of technologies to prevent the reuse of that.”

Jonathan Camhi has been an associate editor with Bank Systems & Technology since 2012. He previously worked as a freelance journalist in New York City covering politics, health and immigration, and has a master's degree from the City University of New York's Graduate School ... View Full Bio

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