Mitigating Active Cyber Threats in the Financial Sector: Effective Prevention Strategies

Financial institutions stand as prime targets for cybercriminals due to the immense value of the data they safeguard and the potential for substantial payouts from breaches. Recent reports reveal an escalating trend in cyberattacks, making the financial sector a focal point for security concerns.

Verizon’s Data Breach Investigations Report highlights the consistent targeting of the financial sector, showcasing a staggering 238% surge in attacks on banks in 2022 alone. Moreover, IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach Report 2023 unveils that the average financial sector breach costs $5.9 million, second only to the healthcare sector in expenses.

Safeguarding financial data poses multifaceted challenges for institutions. The complexities arise from intricate business environments, particularly in larger entities shaped by mergers and acquisitions. Integrating legacy networks and applications often results in vulnerabilities, providing hackers with exploitable entry points.

The pandemic-induced distributed workforce necessitated increased utilization of cloud and mobile computing, expanding the attack surface. Meanwhile, outdated applications, like those written in COBOL, linger, presenting security risks despite their obsolete status due to the impracticality of updates.

The Critical Role of Identities

User identities serve as pivotal elements in numerous cyberattacks, encompassing breaches caused by insiders, external infiltrations, or involvement of third-party associates.

The infamous 2019 Capital One hack, orchestrated by a single insider, remains a poignant example of the havoc a malicious actor can wreak. External attacks through credential compromises emulate insider threats, leveraging stolen credentials to operate within networks as trusted insiders.

Third-party connections pose substantial risks. Hackers adeptly exploit breaches within third-party systems as gateways into financial environments, amplifying vulnerabilities.

Active Directory: The Epicenter of Attacks

Active Directory (AD), ubiquitous in 90% of financial organizations globally, emerges as the linchpin of cyber breaches. Microsoft estimates a staggering 95 million daily attacks on AD accounts. Its centrality in organizational frameworks renders it a focal point for 9 out of 10 cyberattacks.

AD serves as a gateway for threat actors to elevate privileges, traverse networks, and execute ransomware attacks, paralyzing financial operations, compromising customer data, and tarnishing brand reputation.

Fortifying Cyber Defenses

Institutions must prioritize risk assessment, acknowledging the inevitability of breaches. Identifying critical assets and vulnerabilities thereof facilitates the development of response and remediation strategies.

Emphasizing AD security assessments and reviewing overall security architecture aids in identifying attack pathways and devising robust mitigation plans, curtailing the attack surface and streamlining recovery procedures.

Continuous monitoring of user identities helps detect anomalies indicative of compromised identities, averting potential threats.

The Imperative of Future Security

With the surge in attack sophistication, institutions must bolster visibility, fortify identity controls, and formulate comprehensive breach readiness plans. The evolving landscape, including the advent of cryptocurrency threats, necessitates a steadfast commitment to fundamental security practices.

Education and retention of adept security practitioners coupled with comprehensive employee training and awareness programs stand as crucial pillars in fortifying financial sector security against evolving threats.

As the sector navigates evolving threats, mastering foundational security principles remains paramount for sustained resilience and adaptability.


The future of financial sector security hinges on mastering core security fundamentals, gaining comprehensive visibility into enterprise landscapes, and proactively managing user identities. With an unwavering commitment to fortifying defenses and anticipating evolving threats, financial institutions can navigate the turbulent cybersecurity landscape while safeguarding invaluable data assets.

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