How FinTech Deals with CyberSecurity
Make sure you read the part 1 of this article here!
PwC adds that while threats ebb and flow in terms of where they come from, the frequency and sophistication of cyber attacks on the infrastructure on banks and financial firms is increasing constantly. It suggests also that the geographic landscape of cyber attackers is always evolving, with reports that a higher number of cyber attacks are coming from Africa, and that in some cases cyber criminals could be relocating to South Africa from Europe to escape detection.
Back in the UK, the “most serious attack ever” on a UK bank occurred recently in 2016 when hackers stole money from the accounts of 20,000 Tesco banking customers.Not only was this one of the largest cybersecurity breaches on a retail bank in the UK, it was one of the rare occasions that money had actually been stolen from individuals’ accounts.
It is now estimated that £2.5m was stolen from Tesco customers’ bank accounts and that the attack was conducted through an organised “guessing” process. Experts think that now that it could take hackers as little as 6 seconds to work out “the card number, expiry date and security code of any Visa credit or debit card”. Fundamentally, this is exactly what the hackers did to Tesco customers in a concerted, organised effort, guessing the card details of thousands of customers and then accessing their funds.
While Visa cards were susceptible to this type of attack it’s been suggested that not all payment cards are vulnerable, including MasterCard because it has systems in place to protect such guessing attacks including 3D Secure technology. Other systems used by firms which provide an extra layer of protection include Verified by Visa, Mastercard SecureCode and American Express SafeKey.
Even more recently, it was reported that Lloyds Banking Group was attacked in January of this year. In a 48 hour attack, hackers attempted to block access to 20 million accounts in what is also known as a “denial of service” attack. Over two days at the start of January, Lloyds, Halifax and Bank of Scotland, were bombarded with millions of fake requests. These aim to bring the banking systems to a stop and also then often result in a ransom being requested from the hackers to end the attack.
Fortunately, in this case, the bank says that it didn’t experience any loss of money with no accounts compromised, so it didn’t pay a ransom. The bank did say that users experienced some issues like not being able to log into their accounts but generally, Lloyds was able to disrupt the hackers by “geoblocking” the attack. This blocks the server from which the attacks are being launched, but the attackers can then move onto another server which the IT cybersecurity team then have to track and block repeatedly.
Cybersecurity at financial firms is clearly becoming a major concern for financial firms and an area of fraud prevention in which they are now dedicating huge resources and investment. As these cases show, however, hackers are not slowing down but are constantly innovating and launching ever more sophisticated attacks on banks and other financial firms. It is clear that while disruption and real losses to individuals and firms is often small, these firms are playing a constant game of cat-and-mouse with no sign that they are clearly winning in the war against cyber attacks.