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How to Improve Data Security in the Financial Sector

The financial industry must keep its clients’ data confidential by law and, as such, needs a higher level of data security than most other types of businesses.

As much as these companies think they are using the latest tools and technology to keep data safe, the threat of a data breach remains.

This is unfortunately demonstrated by frontpage news about data breaches in financial institutions, most of which involve the exposure and stealing of data with millions of dollars in monetary value. For example, Capital One’s recent data breach. When you hear or see news like this, you can’t help but be worried about this industry’s vulnerability. It builds skepticism about the ability of companies in this sector to provide data security.

Finance Companies as the Leading Recipient of Data Breach

The leading cause of data breach in the financial sector is an eye-opener for us; it isn’t those dreaded hackers declaring war online while wearing creepy masks. The truth is that more than half of the occurrences are attributed to internal activities – hidden in the daily mundane activities of employees and everyone else who has access to the IT infrastructure and network.

The finance sector gets the brunt, with 40% of economic crimes related to financial services. This alarming figure puts a ton of pressure on finance companies and services to protect data and improve their infrastructure’s overall security.

Finding the Right Solutions

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to improving data security in the financial sector. What you need is a layered solution. The term “layered” translates into the use of several methods to protect sensitive data. So, what are these methods? Let’s go through every step in detail. 

Step 1 – Understand where your data is and how it flows.

The first step in improving your company’s data security is to know where vital information is located and its movement. Regardless of the type of data or information, you need to remember it is constantly moving as your people need to access, download, or transfer it from the server to an endpoint device.

Step 2 – Focus on endpoint protection.

While data mobility opens a world of possibilities in IT and networking, the same innovation causes fear among financial companies since it increases the vulnerability of moving or shared data. Since you cannot ignore data mobility, the best approach is to up the ante to endpoint protection. A handful of strategies can be used to embrace data mobility while also protecting client information, company secrets, and financial figures. Some of these strategies include using geofences to flag down data access in unexpected or restricted locations and deleting devices remotely.

Step 3 – Figure out the company’s weakest links.

A data breach happens without warning, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out where the leak comes from. The first and likeliest source of the breach is your company’s weakest link, which is your employees. Your recent venture in improving data security by buying and incorporating new tech won’t make sense if you don’t pair it with employee training. Acknowledging the shortcomings and inability of your people to cope with increased security measures means that they need to undergo a refresher.

It’s never too late to teach your employees the importance of having the right technology to protect your business against data breaches. Make them realize that the cause or source of the breach may very well come from anyone who forgets to log out or accesses the company’s network through their personal computer.

Step 4 – Perform a more comprehensive security risk assessment.

Identifying your employees as the office’s weakest link is just half the job of figuring out the risk areas. The next step is to perform a security risk assessment to identify other vulnerabilities. The evaluation is, by far, the most effective way to figure out the risk profile of your company. Once you get the facts right, that’s the time you create a strategy to implement stricter and more stringent security measures.

Step 5 – Periodic audits are necessary, too.

Doing periodic audits isn’t just a practice of efficiency. Every business or company in the financial sector must do it because it brings to light some issues in the IT infrastructure and network, which have remained undetected. Audits are also used to ensure that your company’s existing security policies are at par with the industry standards. You must ensure that your people are following laws and regulations, including regulatory compliance provisions.

Step 6 – Back-up your company data and do it regularly.

Data backup in a company that stores crucial client financial information is essential, and it’s not a one-time thing. Even if you may have an IT security strategy in place, you can’t just forget about backing data up once everything is set in motion. Consider it as part of your company’s regular assessment and maintenance strategy.

With secure backups, you are confident that your files are safe from being deleted, exposed, or stolen in case of a data breach or ransomware. But is your data safe from potential physical damage to your IT infrastructure caused by fire, earthquake, flood, and the like? The best data security practice is to establish a storage option that’s outside of your business premises.

Conclusion

It’s easy to lose data in a business or corporate setting with lots of people who have access to it. Even with a competent IT infrastructure and the team running it, it’s impossible to improve data security if managers, supervisors, and employees don’t work together. Having said that, data security should be considered as everyone’s responsibility.