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A ransomware attack is when hackers block a victim’s access to their own data through encryption or by locking the device itself in exchange for payment to release them. Ransomware can enter a computer through phishing scams, visiting infected websites, infected external drives, or remote desktop protocols.

Unfortunately, businesses in any industry can fall victims to this attack. Research states that 4 in 5 (80%) organizations suffered a ransomware attack in 2021. Another survey found that approximately 1 in 3 (34%) financial services organizations were victims of ransomware in 2020.

The average cost of a ransomware attack—including losses, downtime, lost opportunities, and ransom paid—can reach over $2.1 million.

Despite plaguing the financial industry, ransomware isn’t unstoppable. Proven security tactics can mitigate and prevent instances of ransomware attacks. Given that you will need to collect your customers’ personal information as part of Know Your Customer (KYC) compliances, it’s essential to do everything you can to secure your data. 

A Complete Ransomware Prevention Checklist for Banks 

Regularly go through our ransomware prevention checklist below to ensure that your organization’s data stays safe. 

1. Limit data access to authorized personnel

Unauthorized server access was the second-most common attack type, per IBM’s X-Force Threat Intelligence Index 2022 report. This figure emphasizes the need for optimized access control, especially if your organization has a large employee population. Remember that the fewer people with access, the fewer chances of exposing your systems to ransomware. 

2. Conduct periodical cybersecurity risk assessments 

Hackers can access your data from multiple vectors. According to the aforementioned IBM report, vulnerability exploitation was the second-most common ransomware infection vector. Regular cybersecurity risk assessments will help ensure your bank’s internal systems are safe throughout the year. 

You can perform the following during risk assessments:

  • Change login credentials often and adopt password security best practices.
  • Update your bank’s operating systems applications to the latest versions to receive new security patches.
  • Back up data to external storage drives. 

3. Develop a ransomware attack response plan 

If the worst happens, you may not have enough time to respond. Ransomware on average only takes 42 minutes and 52 seconds to deny you access to almost 100,000 files. An attack response plan will give you the agility you need to stay protected. 

Your response plan mirrors how you may respond to a data breach: confirm the attack, determine which files are compromised, take systems offline to prevent bigger losses, and alert authorities. Fortunately, working with cybersecurity experts can help you develop the best ransomware response plan for your organization.

4. Store backups of your most important data 

There are two main benefits to having your data backed up. First, if your primary computer is compromised, you at least still have access to your data through your backups. This is beneficial, especially for some types of ransomware that lock access to your entire device. 

The second benefit is that there’s no guarantee that you will recover all your compromised data—according to Sophos, financial organizations on average only recover 63% of their data.  

5. Monitor suspicious activity 

If you are part of the growing number of banks leveraging the cloud to run your systems, checking for suspicious activities should be one of your priorities. 

Network detection response (NDR) and endpoint detection and response (EDR) tools will increase your awareness of potential ransomware and other cybersecurity attacks. These often use machine learning to identify and alert you of any real-time suspicious activity in your network. 

6. Segment your data

When ransomware infects a device, it goes through the entire system to search for specific file types to encrypt. This is dangerous when all your processes, applications, and assets are accessible from any device. 

Segmenting your data between information technology and operational technology isolates the attack and prevents any lateral spread of ransomware and other cyberattacks. 

7. Teach proper cyber hygiene 

One wrong click from an untrained employee could trigger a massive internal ransomware spread. This is why it’s essential to train internal staff to be more cautious and vigilant when using your bank’s devices. The scope of what you can educate them on include:

8. Utilize multi-factor authentication in all applicable areas 

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is an effective method for users to prove they are who they say they are. Since users will have to bypass multiple authentication systems, fraudsters will have a harder time infiltrating systems and accounts.  

Acquiring authentication solutions also works excellently with limiting data access to authorized personnel since it notifies administrators of login attempts. By setting restrictions effectively, it can also block a potential ransomware attack before it even occurs. A recommended MFA type for financial institutions would be  biometric authentication, which utilizes an individual’s biometric data for identity verification.

Security Worth Investing In 

Ransomware remains a threat to all industries, and its impact can vary. Your level of preparedness will determine how costly a ransomware attack will be for your financial organization. Regularly reviewing our ransomware prevention checklist will help you keep your bank secure.

There may be times when following cybersecurity best practices is not enough to deter hackers and ransomware attacks. Working with cybersecurity specialists such as Q5id will help you bolster your data protection efforts. Contact us today to learn how you can incorporate our secure authentication solutions into your organization.


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