Staying ahead of emerging vulnerabilities and threat vectors drastically minimizes organizational risk. This article provides an overview of common vulnerabilities in financial systems, the typical attack vectors hackers deploy to target them, and proven mitigation strategies security teams utilize to strengthen protection.

Most Prevalent Vulnerabilities

Several vulnerabilities frequently targeted in financial services include:

SQL Injection

SQL injection flaws allow unauthorized database access by manipulating input fields vulnerable to malicious SQL statements. Attackers gain access to sensitive customer information like financial data and PII to facilitate fraud or identity theft. Input validation checking for unauthorized code effectively stops SQLi attempts.

Cross-Site Scripting

XSS vulnerabilities permit injecting malicious scripts into website content viewed by users. Successful XSS often facilitates subsequent phishing attempts, session hijacking, or malware installation. Filtering user input and encoding website output prevents XSS code from executing.

Broken Authentication

Authentication mechanisms failing to properly validate users’ identities before allowing access frequently plague financial applications. Attackers exploit flaws like weak credentials, verbose failed login messages, guessable reset questions, etc. to impersonate legitimate users. Multifactor authentication (MFA), password managers, and audit logging strengthen access controls.

Vulnerable Components

Many financial systems run outdated software components vulnerable to readily available exploits. Unpatched weaknesses in libraries, modules, and plugins erected access vectors for major breaches like Equifax’s Struts2 compromise. Establishing an inventory of all third-party components paired with constant patching minimizes exposures.

Main Attack Vectors Targeting Financial Sector

Phishing

Phishing attacks aiming to steal users’ online banking credentials remain ubiquitous due to their simplicity and effectiveness. Highly customized Business Email Compromise (BEC) phishing messages target finance staff with authority over wire transfers and payments. User security training and email content filtering reduce phishing risk.

Watering Hole Attacks

Sophisticated attackers compromise routinely visited websites like industry news outlets to install malware targeting financial executives. Victims get compromised simply by browsing sites unaware of the backdoor infection. Zeroday exploits recently utilized watering holes to penetrate several banks. Rigorously patching and sandboxing suspicious content prevents watering hole breaches.

Insider Threats

Malicious insiders like employees or third-party vendors with access to sensitive systems carry out the majority of financial cybercrime. Their privileged access lets them evade many security layers to perpetuate theft, fraud or sabotage. Conducting stringent background checks, limiting access, monitoring activities, and promptly revoking credentials following dismissals impedes insiders.

Mitigating Ongoing Threats

Implement Zero Trust

The zero trust model ending implicit trust in networks and resources significantly boosts security. Strictly validating every access attempt with Multifactor authentication (MFA) assumes breach, limiting lateral movement. Encrypting data universally also contains breaches by eliminating plaintext credentials and PII.

Prioritize Actionable Threat Intel

Utilizing quality threat intelligence to generate specific defense recommendations maximizes efficiency. Indicators of Compromise (IOCs) like detected C2 servers, newly observed exploit attempts, and emerging attack patterns help proactively identify and thwart emerging attacks. Automating threat data ingestion using Security Orchestration (SOAR) enhances response velocity.

Foster Security Skilled Teams

Financial providers face a massive cybersecurity skills shortage hampering defenses and elevating risk As boards increasingly prioritize security, experienced hiring and retaining skilled talent grows imperative Training programs producing qualified candidates offer long-term, sustainable staffing solutions. Well-supported security teams better identify and mitigate vulnerabilities keeping institutions safer.

Summary

As digital attacks targeting financial systems accelerate, institutions must continually assess the threat landscape for emerging exposures while strengthening organizational defenses. Protecting sensitive customer data and upholding stability demands urgency and resources in improving cyber readiness through vulnerability and attack surface visibility, control maturity, and response agility in a relentlessly evolving climate of risk.


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