Financial Services Network Challenges: Compliance, Security and Availability Top Concerns

Financial services firms face three key network issues: maintaining compliance with an array of regulations, keeping a growing horde of financial data hungry hackers at bay, and earning the trust of users with an always-on responsive network.

Financial data is so valuable, cybercriminals make getting it a top priority. And financial services networks are so interconnected and complex, there are all sorts of ways hackers can try to break in. The security threat to finance is more than bad. Fact is, 35% of all data breaches impact the Financial Services industry, argues Forbes.

Don’t think this can happen to you? It did to Capital One, where 100 million customers had data exposed, JPMorgan Chase where hackers stole data from 76 million households, and First American Financial Corp where 885 million records were compromised.

Attacks on financial services not only abound, they cost more to clean up. “Financial services firms are 300 times as likely as other companies to be targeted by a cyberattack,” the Boston Consulting Group reported. “Dealing with those attacks and their aftermath carries a higher cost for banks and wealth managers than for any other sector.” 

The largest software company in the world understands these issues. “Financial services institutions surpass nearly all commercial businesses in their demand for stringent security, compliance, and governance controls. The protection of data, identities, devices, and applications is not only critical to their business, but also subject to compliance requirements and guidelines from regulatory bodies such as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC), and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC),” Microsoft argued. “In today's climate of increased security vigilance, insider risk concerns and public data breaches, customers also demand high levels of security from their financial institutions in order to trust them with their personal data and banking assets.” 

Don’t believe the threat to finance is all that bad? Some 35% of all data breaches affect the financial services industry experiences, found Forbes. Not only is the data so valuable it is impossible for hackers to resist, but financial IT systems are so complex and interconnected, there are myriad ways to break in. That is why financial cyber security is a top IT priority.

Financial Cyber Security

It is clear that network monitoring in the financial sector is a critical part of financial cyber security. Without it, you lack visibility into key devices, as well as network traffic, activity and configuration status.

User Errors Invite Attacks

Security attacks never stop for the finance market. Technology researcher Vanson Bourne surveyed some 100 UK business decision-makers, and 70% fell victim to a security incident in the previous year. The researchers said that most security incidents were “from employees failing to follow security protocol or data protection policies.” Other factors “included the introduction of malware and viruses via 3rd party devices, including USBs and BYOD (32%), file and image downloads (25%) and employees sharing data with unintended recipients (24%).” 

Network monitoring can address these issues by tracking user behavior, use of third-party devices, and downloads.

Alert Overload

Chances are your financial services shop is awash with security management tools that send out alerts when things don’t seem quite right. The problem is there are so many things that ‘don’t seem quite right,’ and even if a tiny of these are flagged, IT is overwhelmed by “alert overload.” Security professionals from MasterCard interviewed by New York Times noted there are “460,000 intrusion attempts in a typical day, up 70 percent from a year ago.”

Meanwhile, Ovum research on banks discovered that 40% of banks surveyed were hit with 160,000 redundant, irrelevant or mistake alerts each day. The reason? Too many tools sending out too many alerts. In fact, Ovum found that 73% of the surveyed banks run 25 or more different security tools.

Breach Forensics Done Right

Did you know it takes on average 287 days to discover, identify and contain a data breach, and the longer it takes to find it the more it costs? “Data breaches that took longer than 200 days to identify and contain cost on average $4.87 million, compared to $3.61 million for breaches that took less than 200 days. Overall, it took an average of 287 days to identify and contain a data breach, seven days longer than in the previous report,” the 2021 IBM Cost of a Data Breach Report found. 

The result? Many financial services firms don’t know they’ve been breached until it is far too late. So how do they figure out what happened nearly a year ago?

Network monitoring helps identify the breaches, often in the breach attempt phase. And through network logs, log analysis and reporting, IT can perform security forensics. This way, IT knows what happened and why. Armed with this information, IT can minimize ongoing damage, and knowing the source, block it from happening again. 

Two Financial Cases in Point

Banca Marche

Banca Marche in Italy has a complex information system, run by an outsourcer, that must perform well to satisfy the bank’s customers.

The bank oversees the outsourcers and wanted to simplify from several net monitoring solutions (each with its own dashboard) to one. With all these tools, there was no singular view of the network.

The answer was WhatsUp Gold. Before WhatsUp Gold, network and server problems were addressed in response to reports from the help-desk team. WhatsUp Gold, however, sends immediate alerts as soon as a problem arises. “Initially, we tested an evaluation version of the product, and it worked extremely well right from the outset,” comments Lamberto Spadari from Banca Marche Operations department. “During the evaluation phase, WhatsUp Gold quickly identified the systems that impacted on-network performance, confirming to us that the solution could detect faults in real time.”

WhatsUp Gold flags faults rapidly, enabling Banca Marche to take prompt action to mitigate problems affecting users, letting the bank move from reactive to proactive network monitoring and management of its some 2,500 endpoints.

Learn more in our Banca Marche Banks on New Tools for Fault Finding and Network Performance case study.

Close Brothers Premium Finance

Close Brothers Premium Finance provides premium finance products and services in the UK and Ireland. As you can imagine, its network is the backbone of its services and operations, with business-critical services relying on the constant availability of the network.

That availability is greatly helped by WhatsUp Gold. “We have been using WhatsUp Gold since 2003,” says Close Brothers Premium Finance Network Support Team Leader, Dan Coffey. “We use it to monitor our network and to make sure that there are no issues that would affect the critical day-to-day activities at Close Brothers Premium Finance.”

Coffey has a team of five people dedicated to look after its Cisco network. Coffey and his team use WhatsUp Gold to monitor the uptime and performance of all switches and trunks, as well as the network ports. Additionally, the team uses the WhatsUp Gold Flow Monitor to keep an eye out on bandwidth levels and utilization.

One of the key areas that Close Brothers Premium Finance relies on network monitoring for is ensuring timely response to potential problems. “With WhatsUp Gold we are able to tell end users with confidence whether there is a network issue or not,” Coffey explains. “This saves us time from having to manually go in and look at all the switches and routers to try and pinpoint a problem. WhatsUp Gold gives both of us the insight into our entire network and the confidence to tell end users that there are no faults in the network, thus saving us and the IT team from doubling up our efforts.”

Close Brothers Premium Finance and its Network Support team are able to stay alert of the network’s status 24/7 through the alerting systems built into WhatsUp Gold. The team uses smart phones to receive email alerts and SMS alerts of the network’s status.

Uptime is now the least of Close Brother’s worries. “Network uptime is paramount to the organization and we are able to ensure that we are able to respond to any issues that could hinder the availability of services that staff and customers have come to rely upon. We will continue to look to WhatsUp Gold to keep us up to date with the happenings within the network to ensure that Close Brothers Premium Finance delivers the first-class service our customers have come to expect,” Coffey said.

Learn more in our Close Brothers Premium Finance Spots Problems with Network Monitoring case study.


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