Data Breaches for Financial Firms: Improving Cybersecurity and Protecting Sensitive Information

Oren Todoros
By Oren Todoros, Updated on August 24, 2023, 11 min read

Today’s financial and banking (TradFI) firms are not only worried about their loans, deposits, credits, and investments but also about the looming cyber threats and data breaches that keep the CISO up at night. As TV and social media headlines continue to feature stories of high-profile data breaches month after month, it’s clear that no financial firm is immune to these attacks. That’s why implementing robust data protection measures to avoid data breaches has become a non-negotiable priority for everyone from the IT department to the company board of directors.


In our cybersecurity guide, we’ll look deep into the world of data breaches for financial firms. We’ll look at the challenges ahead and give you actionable insights. We’ll address the key questions that demand your attention today.



1. How can financial teams enhance cybersecurity to protect against cyber threats? 

Cybersecurity isn’t just an IT concern anymore; it’s a fundamental aspect of a financial firm’s survival, so it’s a board-level problem. In our guide, we’ll explore strategies to elevate cybersecurity awareness internally, strengthen access controls, and stay one step ahead of would-be hackers and data breaches.



2. What measures are essential to protect sensitive information in financial firms? 

Encryption, data masking, and meticulous data backups are no longer the top protection methods. We’ll uncover the essential layers of protection that need to be woven into the fabric of your data-handling practices.



3. How can financial teams implement effective data protection measures?   

When a breach occurs at a bank, a rapid and laser-focused response is critical. We’ll look at the components of a well-crafted incident response plan and look a the “fun” dance between legal, compliance, and communication teams during times of crisis. Whether it’s an app for your consumer banking or a financial advisor app, incident response is critical.



4. Navigating Data Growth: Balancing Security with Budget 

Observability data (logs, metrics, and traces) is growing heavily among all organizations, especially banking and financial firms. We’ll discuss strategies to handle growing data volumes without compromising security or breaking the bank.



5. The Regulatory Landscape: GDPR, CCA, and Beyond    

In the era of GDPR and CCA, we’ll provide insights into how compliance can coexist with innovation without breaking the budget.



Enhancing Cybersecurity for Financial Teams: Avoid Data Breaches

data breaches for banks


When it comes to people’s money, every decimal point matters, and transactions occur at the speed of light, and the stakes couldn’t be higher when it comes to cybersecurity for banks. Whether it’s sharing content over email, a team chat app, or a wealth management teams communication app – cyber security is critical.




Understanding the Evolving Landscape of Cyber Threats in the Financial Industry

The financial industry is a complicated mixture of technology and legacy systems, so it has long been a honeypot target for cybercriminals. From opportunistic hackers to sophisticated state-sponsored attacks, the wide range of threats is diverse and unrelenting. Malicious actors are not content with the conventional; they’re always searching for the gaps in the armor, exploiting vulnerabilities to breach the defenses of banking organizations.


Phishing attacks, ransomware, and data breaches have become an unfortunate reality, leaving financial firms grappling with the aftershocks of compromised data, financial loss, and reputational damage to their customers. To navigate this treacherous digital landscape, financial teams must adopt a forward-thinking mindset that anticipates rather than reacts to, threats.



Emphasizing the Need for a Proactive Cybersecurity Approach

A reactive cybersecurity approach is insufficient when faced with avoiding data breaches. It’s similar to attempting to keep the horse inside the barn after it has already bolted. Instead, a proactive strategy is required that employs advanced threat intelligence, predictive analysis, and a thorough understanding of cybercriminal tactics to meet the present challenge.


Staying ahead of the curve with cybersecurity and avoiding data breaches requires much more than a generic strategy. You must tailor your approach to factor in your financial firm’s unique vulnerabilities and potential risks. Maintaining top-level protection entails an ongoing process of assessment, adaptation, and continual monitoring to keep pace with the ever-evolving threat landscape.



Collaboration Between IT and Financial Teams for Comprehensive Protection

Playing a crucial role in the cybersecurity symphony is collaboration. The technical expertise of IT teams combined with the industry intricacies understood by financial teams creates a harmonious blend necessary for a comprehensive defense strategy.


Quickly resolve support issues with collaborative teamwork


The potential impact of a breach, the entry points hackers could target, and the most vulnerable data types are all valuable insights financial teams possess. This allows for technical measures to be aligned with real-world risks and ensures the relevance of security measures beyond just their effectiveness. Their collaboration is essential.

To strengthen the financial firm’s defenses, it is crucial to encourage a culture of cybersecurity awareness. This requires a collective effort from all departments, achieved through interdepartmental communication, mock drills, and training sessions. Everyone on the team must understand their role to effectively fortify the firm’s security.



Essential Measures for Protecting Sensitive Information Against Data Breaches

avoid data breaches


In the realm of financial firms, where every keystroke carries weight and a single breach can lead to monumental consequences, safeguarding sensitive information is not just a priority—it’s imperative. The intricate dance of data protection requires a harmonious blend of technological prowess, strategic planning, and unwavering vigilance.



Implementing Strong Access Controls and User Authentication Mechanisms

Using only one set of credentials, Single Sign-On (SSO) provides a means of authentication that boosts security. This approach allows users to access multiple applications, reducing the likelihood of weak passwords and shrinking the attack surface. Users find the process simple, and it contributes to easier management and reduces the risk of data breaches.



Encrypting Sensitive Data to Safeguard Against Unauthorized Access

The art of data protection is best handled by encryption. Encryption works like a secret code where the message is your valuable data, and only the intended recipient can make sense of it. It converts sensitive data into illegible nonsense on the off chance a hacker can even see it. Without the key to deciphering it, anyone who gets a hold of the data will be left with an inscrutable mess.


By creating an insurmountable barrier, financial institutions utilize encryption – a multi-layered strategy – to maintain data security while at rest and in transit. The encryption of this data, as it travels through networks and on servers, serves as a deterrent for even the most determined of cybercriminals.


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Regular Security Audits and Vulnerability Assessments from Outside Firms

Complacency is an especially formidable foe in the fight against data breaches. To keep your digital infrastructure in good health, it’s important to conduct regular vulnerability assessments and security audits. Much like consulting with medical professionals to monitor your physical health, hiring external firms to evaluate your security posture can give you an unbiased assessment of your weaknesses.


Third-party assessments are great for tracking down crevices where cybercriminals can sneak in and cause trouble. This ensures weak spots are identified and dealt with before attackers can exploit them. Not only does this proactivity improve financial firms’ defense systems, but it also shows clients and stakeholders your dedication to data protection. With an added layer of credibility, trustworthiness is instilled in all parties involved.



Effective Data Protection Measures Implementation

The primary step in forming thorough measures for safeguarding against data breaches is to comprehend the intricacies of the company’s procedures. It is crucial to distinguish the kinds of data that are obtained, the manner in which it is utilized, and the individuals who are authorized to access it (and why). These policies must include a precise outline dictating the processes involved in managing, maintaining, exchanging, and discarding information.


Collaboration from all members is critical when it comes to enforcing policies. Simply having them on paper doesn’t suffice. Teams must communicate the procedures clearly, take regular assessments, and provide quick consequences for those who don’t comply. Upholding these regulations is not only about their existence but also about integrating them into every move made within the firm.



Training Employees on Security Awareness

In the grand scheme of data protection, employees play a critical role in protecting against data breaches. Regular training sessions equip employees with the knowledge they need to identify potential threats and act as the first line of defense. From recognizing phishing emails to understanding the importance of not reusing passwords, these sessions empower employees to be vigilant in protecting data. Moreover, these efforts should extend beyond the initial onboarding phase, with continuous education that keeps up with the evolving threats.



AI-Based Threat Detection

Threat detection is of utmost importance in the digital banking world, which is why financial firms are relying on advanced security technologies. In the ongoing battle for protection, technology is both the defender and the assailant. To keep up with the ever-evolving cyber threats, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is becoming a crucial asset.


In this digital age, AI-based threat detection systems have become an essential tool for safeguarding financial institutions and avoiding data breaches. With their ability to parse through massive amounts of data in real-time, these digital sentries can spot patterns and anomalies that might not be visible to the human eye. By leveraging the power of AI technology, these systems can identify potential breaches and intrusions, enabling firms to beef up their defenses against the ever-increasing complexity of cyberattacks. In short, AI-based systems are the eyes and ears of financial firms, tirelessly scanning for any signs of trouble.



The Importance of Masking PII Data Before Ingesting Data Into Analysis Systems

Personally Identifable Information (PII) is the digital fingerprint of customers and is a key focus for why data breaches happen in the first place. It includes names, addresses, social security numbers, and more—these pieces of data carry immense power, and with great power comes great responsibility. This data is what hackers want. In the wrong hands, PII becomes the ammunition for identity theft and financial fraud.


The risks are multifaceted. From internal personnel with malicious intent to external hackers seeking to cause havoc, the consequences of exposing unmasked PII can be catastrophic. Compliance with data protection regulations, such as GDPR and CCPA, is not just a checkbox; it’s a fundamental aspect that protects individuals’ rights and preserves trust.



Using Cribl Stream to Mask Data

With Cribl Stream, IT admins can allow data to flow freely through their sources and destinations while ensuring that PII remains obscured and hashed. Through a series of sophisticated techniques, Cribl Stream transforms PII data that is useless to hackers.


Data masking is not just a cloak to hide sensitive information; it’s a bridge between privacy and insight. It allows organizations to harness the power of data analysis without falling into the pitfalls of exposing PII. By substituting sensitive information with pseudonyms, organizations can safeguard individuals’ identities while obtaining the necessary insights.



Observability Lakes: A Critical Component for Financial Firms

Data is growing at an unprecedented rate. With a 23% CAGR, financial firms are grappling with the challenge of managing this deluge of data. The reality is that this data is needed for analysis. Enter the observability lake, a cutting-edge solution reshaping how IT professionals handle data growth.


An observability lake is more than just a cheap object storage solution; it’s a strategic approach to data management for finance firms. It provides a vendor-neutral place to store data in open formats, cost-effectively. This open, flexible approach aligns perfectly with the complex compliance requirements and the need for full-fidelity data in the financial sector.


Financial firms can benefit immensely from the observability lake’s ability to store greater volumes of data without prohibitive costs. It’s queryable, format-agnostic, and vendor-neutral, allowing unparalleled access and control over data with not sacrificing security.



Wrap-Up on Data Breaches for Financial Institutions

With each keystroke, we underscored the significance of robust access controls, encryption, and the collaborative dance between IT and financial teams. These measures, woven into the very fabric of financial organizations, stand as the shield for protecting customer data.


The prospect of a data breach is on the minds of every CISO, like a storm cloud, threatening not only financial loss but also the erosion of trust that binds companies and customers. This risk, however, can be mitigated with resilience through preparation. By crafting and developing incident response plans, financial firms wield a potent weapon against breaches.


Data protection is the backbone of trust in the financial industry. It safeguards sensitive information from data breaches, fraud, and reputational damage, ensuring the integrity of client relationships, data, and finances. 

Access controls and authentication mechanisms act as gatekeepers for corporate IT teams, granting authorized personnel access to specific data. They minimize the risk of unauthorized access by employees and limit the potential spread of phishing attacks and data breaches. 

Encryption transforms data into an unreadable format by humans, rendering it useless to hackers. It ensures data remains confidential, whether in transit or storage. 

Unmasked Personally Identifiable Information (PII) data exposes individuals to identity theft and fraud. It also poses compliance risks and erodes client trust. 

Cribl Stream is a stream processing engine that offers a masking solution for protecting sensitive information while allowing analysis. It substitutes PII data with masked, preserving privacy without compromising insights from your systems of analysis.      

Oren Todoros
Oren Todoros Oren is a strategic thinker with over 20 years of experience in the marketing industry and is the current Head of Content Strategy at Spike. He's also the proud father of 3 beautiful daughters and a dog named Milo.

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