The global financial sector is one of the biggest cybercrime targets in the world. The volume and sophistication of cyberattacks on banks surged in 2022, spiking considerably at the very end of the year.
These attacks come in a broad variety of forms. Some exploit highly technical vulnerabilities unique to today's remote-enabled IT infrastructure. Others use complex social engineering schemes to compromise privileged user accounts. Some simply leverage modern technology to supercharge well-known techniques like distributed disruption of service (DDoS) attacks.
Organizations in the financial sector need to protect themselves against a wide range of attack types. Each security threat presents a unique set of cyber risks that must be addressed. Security leaders need to develop multi-layered solutions to ensure the financial stability of the organizations they protect.
Some of the fastest-growing cybercrime vectors in the industry include:
Web application and API attacks
Web application and API attacks have tripled in frequency in 2022. Banks and financial institutions are under pressure to improve the user experience by opening data up to third parties. Mobile banking apps use APIs to standardize the exchange of customer data and comply with regulatory requirements. This puts a great deal of responsibility on developers to establish secure solutions for capturing and processing customer data.
Attackers can exploit weaknesses in banking applications and APIs to steal login credentials, bypass multifactor authentication, and exfiltrate sensitive data. Many of these attacks rely on Local File Inclusion (LFI) and Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) methods, and the attack surface is only getting larger. According to Postman, 89% of banking leaders increased investment in APIs in 2022.
The frequency of DDoS attacks against financial service organizations grew by 22% in 2022. These attacks are inexpensive to carry out on a large scale. Highly organized cybercrime groups offer professional DDoS services to cybercriminal customers for as little as $5 an hour. Even the most expensive services cost much less than the damage they're capable of.
Unlike data exfiltration or ransomware, DDoS attacks are rarely launched for direct financial gain. Instead, cybercriminals pursue them to disrupt service and use up security resources – potentially as a distraction from other cybercrime activities.
Bot activities have grown by 81% in 2022 and play a critical role in account takeover attacks. Cybercriminals use malicious bots to automate many of the difficult, repetitive tasks that traditional security policies rely on, like credential stuffing.
Organizations in the banking sector find themselves increasingly targeted by web scrapers as well. Not all web scrapers are malicious, but they can be used for malicious purposes. For example, cybercriminals can scrape public-facing login pages to create accurate phishing kits for scamming customers.
Insider threats remain one of the most challenging security threats in the financial sector. Most detection-based security technologies cannot distinguish between legitimate and malicious activities on authorized accounts. Once attackers compromise a privileged account, they are free to move laterally through the organization, escalate their privileges, and exfiltrate data.
User Entity and Behavioral Analytics (UEBA) is one of the most effective security technologies available for addressing insider threats. UEBA-enabled platforms like Exabeam allow security teams to detect malicious behavior on authorized accounts, assets, and applications. This allows for robust detection and response to cyberattacks that other technologies would miss.
Phishing attacks remain a challenging problem for financial institutions and their customers.
Cybercriminals routinely use phishing tactics to trick users into giving up sensitive data or downloading malware. These attacks tend to target consumers, but business and employee accounts are also susceptible.
These attacks reflect consistent demand for compromised consumer accounts on Dark Web marketplaces. Cybercriminals can purchase account credentials and launch second-phase attacks, typically to commit fraud. Some newly developed phishing toolkits enable attackers to bypass dual-factor authentication as well.
Banking and finance leaders must navigate a challenging security landscape to ensure the integrity of the data they collect and process.
High-profile breaches of banks, FinTech platforms, and student loan providers showcase the need for a more effective approach to cybersecurity in the financial sector. Preventing cyberattacks on banks requires investment in solutions for detecting insider threats and responding to new security incidents in real time.