Industry Trends

Addressing Multi-Cloud Security Risks within the Financial Services Sector

By Lior Cohen | August 22, 2018

Organizations within the financial services sector continue to shift toward cloud-based services and infrastructure in order to expand their digital capabilities and address today’s consumer demand for greater convenience, mobility, and simplicity. As banks and other financial institutions continue this digital transformation, the benefits of cloud adoption extend far beyond happy customers and investors. In fact, data shows that by shifting their back-office functions to the cloud, banks can achieve savings between 30 to 40 percent.

This kind of savings potential, coupled with third-party cloud IT maintenance, makes the shift toward the cloud enticing.  

As financial services institutions continue to embrace this shift, we’re seeing the sector—along with many others—increasingly adopt the public cloud and implement multi-cloud strategies in order to add a level of redundancy to their cloud service usage. This severance gives financial services organizations the capabilities to meet consumer expectations, reduce costs, and avoid unnecessary lock-in with cloud vendors.

However, as these multi-cloud environments enter the forefront of the modern financial services network infrastructure, they’re introducing cybersecurity threats that can have a serious impact should there be a successful breach.

In the financial services industry, regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) have been enacted to help protect financial and personal data. However, the valuable data that require such strict regulation also make it a lucrative target for cybercriminals. In order to maintain effective security posture that extends into the cloud, financial institutions need the capability to merge their siloed cloud security controls into one comprehensive information security infrastructure where consistent security policies can be enforced and easily managed. 

Multi-Cloud Cybersecurity Risks in the Financial Services Sector

While cloud services and applications have introduced a variety of benefits for the financial sector, naturally, cybercriminals have begun to look at the shift toward cloud services as an opportunity to exploit new and unique vulnerabilities. Just like the influx of disparate physical network elements during the early 2000’s forced IT professionals to address an increase in network silos, so too is the shift toward cloud-based solutions.

One of the biggest challenges multi-cloud environments have introduced to the security posture of financial institutions is the isolated cloud environments found within networks. With every new cloud-based application, infrastructure, or software service added to a network, the number of potential entryways into the organization’s network that cybercriminals can exploit increases. With these disparate multi-cloud environments comes a variety of obstacles for IT personnel responsible for securing cloud siloes, including:

  • Limited visibility: While cloud service vendors may provide comprehensive visibility into their particular cloud offering, effective security posture requires broad visibility into the entire multi-cloud network. With no comprehensive view into the variety of clouds accessing a financial service’s network, cybersecurity personnel are forced to monitor each cloud individually, taking up valuable time that could be used elsewhere.
  • Inability to coordinate security efforts: In today’s complex and cybersecurity landscape, IT professionals need the capability to operate their security efforts in coordination across the network—from threat analysis to breach containment and repair. When multi-cloud security is siloed, cybersecurity efforts have to be manually carried out across each disparate cloud environment, limiting the response time and efficiency of cybersecurity personnel’s efforts.
  • Inefficient threat analysis: One of the biggest pain points created when any siloed element enters a network is its impact on threat analysis In order to properly maintain effective security posture, IT personnel need to understand the threats across their network, helping to expose attack vectors and their subsequent solutions. However, with disparate cloud solutions acting as digital point products, this adds complexity to an already sophisticated IT environment, forcing cybersecurity professionals to individually analyze each cloud.

Addressing Multi-Cloud Security

As financial services organizations continue to adopt more cloud-based capabilities into their networks, each siloed cloud needs to be properly integrated into a unified Security Fabric. By unifying siloed multi-cloud environments with additional virtual and physical network elements, cybersecurity personnel within the financial services sector can gain broad visibility and protection across the attack surface, while gaining the capabilities for rapid advanced threat detection and automated threat response and breach mitigation.

Additionally, it’s important that IT professionals maintain a number of best practices when actively securing multi-cloud environments, specifically:

  • Establishing endpoint security: Given the potential entryway into clouds endpoints provide, as well as the number of IoT consumers now expecting to have ready access to financial networks through mobile apps, having the ability to gain visibility into these endpoints and control them to an extent can help prevent compromised devices from entering the network helping to implement an effective security posture. As financial services organizations continue to shift toward cloud-based solutions, IoT or BYOD devices connecting to the network via require a combination of security protocols that control access while being able to effectively mitigate potential breaches.
  • Securing applications: When it comes to cloud-based cyberattacks, applications hosted in the cloud have long been a preferred attack target by cybercriminals. In combination with endpoint security, the applications those endpoints use need system controls and advanced threat protection capabilities that can identify known and unknown vulnerabilities and prevent them from being successfully exploited.
  • Extending network segmentation to the cloud: Financial services organizations utilizing cloud services need to ensure that private, hybrid, and public clouds are deploying effective network segmentation that can control access and limit the probability of malware attack spreading across siloed clouds and ultimately lateral network movement. Network segmentation also ensures that if a threat were to successfully gain entryway into a network, that the amount of data compromised is limited to one segment.

Final Thoughts

Financial services organizations are increasingly adopting public cloud and transitioning toward a multi-cloud environment to better meet the demands of consumers and streamline business processes. As a result, this shift has introduced a new generation of siloed network elements that leaves IT personnel struggling to manage effective security posture over the disparate, multi-cloud environments.

Additionally, the threat of cloud-based malware means that in order to effectively secure both cloud solutions and network integrity, network elements need to be combined into a unified security fabric that can secure endpoints and clouds, while adding effective segmentation across the physical and digital network elements.

Read more about Fortinet cybersecurity solutions for financial services organizations.

Read more to find out how to support your digital transformation with multiple cloud services without increasing risk. Learn what to look for in a security architecture to address multi-cloud challenges. 

Read more about the Fortinet Security Fabric and how Fortinet is helping customers transition to the Third Generation of Network Security

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