Identity security: key to the 'Digital or Die' financial industry

A padlock against a black computer screen.
(Image credit: Pixabay)

The financial services sector is embracing the mantra "Digital or Die" as consumers continue to push for more digital experiences. This is particularly true for the younger generation, Gen Z, who primarily shop online and expect their digital payment options to be personalized, easy to use, and offer multiple touchpoints. In response, financial institutions are digitizing their legacy systems, migrating to cloud platforms, and investing in cutting-edge technologies such as AI and IoT to keep up with these demands.

However, this shift to digital also presents new opportunities for cybercriminals, who are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their methods of exploiting vulnerabilities, such as using AI to bypass security measures and targeting data-rich providers upstream. Ransomware attackers, in particular, have become particularly creative in their tactics.

The key to accelerating financial business success

Identity is crucial in today's threat landscape, and organizations must prioritize it to stay secure. Despite the importance of cybersecurity, 79% of senior security leaders admit to having placed it on the back burner in favor of digital transformation initiatives. This can lead to a build-up of cybersecurity debt, impeding future growth and innovation. Business leaders should see security as a driving force for innovation, rather than a hindrance. Organizations that have worked out how to use identity to enable and automate the digital transformation up front are ahead of the pack.

David Higgins
David Higgins

David Higgins is Senior Director, Field Technology Office at CyberArk.

The proof is in the pudding

Analyzing case studies where these tactics have been implemented offers us the opportunity to see what went well, and where we still have room for development. Following are the learnings from some recent projects to demonstrate just what is possible:

Audit failure spurs identity security upgrade

A UK-based financial institution that had failed an audit and was facing regulatory pressure implemented identity security solutions to safeguard privileged access to crucial systems and infrastructure. A comprehensive review of the institution’s tech landscape was integral in implementing new infrastructure and systems that would offer better controls and security management. As a result, using the audit as a springboard for positive change, the institution was able to achieve measurable cyber risk reduction, meet compliance requirements, and save millions in audit and change management costs. Audits often provoke tail-chasing and reactive change. A more ‘planned’ way would be to integrate the audit process as part of an overall, continuous cybersecurity improvement program.

Making monitoring simple

A credit union found itself without a proper way to manage privileged access across their tech landscape, leaving it and their customers vulnerable. By keeping in mind the long term goal of creating a simple, single point of access method to monitor and audit all accounts, the team was able to work backwards to find a comprehensive solution that could store, manage, and audit all privileged accounts and users. This kept the credit union happy and in line with regulatory requirements, and the IT team benefitted from a streamlined system under less pressure.

It's easy to argue that the role of Identity Access Management (IAM) professionals is one of the toughest in IT. They are responsible for understanding how their business operates, integrating tools throughout an organization, and enabling the organization to function efficiently. The pressure is high, but there are always ways to create a secure environment without hindering a business's progress. A key part of any IAM professionals’ role is to communicate the value of this approach to business leaders in their organizations, demonstrating the value of these necessary tools and approaches to keep everything running smoothly.

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David Higgins
EMEA Technical Director

David Higgins, EMEA Technical Director, CyberArk.