Code source for encryption and other cybersecurity software is a sticky topic for many in the information security world. In one camp, you’ll find those who champion open source software as being inherently more secure. And opposite them, you’ll see those who say proprietary is the only way to go since open source has no accountability attached to it. The broader open-source vs closed-source debate has been raging for decades, since the early days of software. Both sides have their prominent proponents and just as prominent opponents.
Banks and other financial institutions are suffering under the weight of a staggering 238% increase in cyber attacks since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic and ensuing lock-downs. While there are myriad reasons for this added attention from bad actors, the simple fact remains that these organizations are vulnerable due to broad attack surfaces that include numerous distinct endpoints.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused, among many other things, a massive uptick in the number of companies shifting to a work-from-home model. And with that shift has come a renewed focus on email security, since workers are now conducting their conversations on whatever device they have to hand rather than their (hopefully) encrypted and secure work computers.
Let’s say you’re a pizza delivery person showing up at someone’s home: you expect him to pay for the pie you’re delivering, but when he opens the door he claims that he never placed an order and won’t accept the delivery. If the order was placed over the phone, there’s not much you can do. Someone might have spoofed the phone number in order to perform a prank, and there’s no real way to prove who actually placed the order. Luckily, the order was actually placed via a delivery app—meaning that the recipient had to sign in to an account associated with his address and credit card. Once you pull up the app on you phone and show the nogoodnik a record of the transaction, the jig is up, and he’s forced to pay out.
SWIFT CSP’s mandatory controls get more numerous and stringent with every yearly release, and it can be difficult for even the most tech-savvy banks to keep pace. Beginning in July 2020, for instance, self-attestations will require independent audit assessments that cover at least the mandatory controls. This audit can be conducted by an internal or external team, but SWIFT seems to be pushing for (and in some instances requiring) outside assessors to help banks understand their own compliance pictures.
In a survey of several thousand IT professionals across a dozen countries, 57% of respondents said that encryption key management at their company was “painful.” In a similar study, the risk and cost associated with key management was, on average, rated a seven out of 10. Those percentages change from year to year, but as the importance of encryption becomes increasingly obvious across different sectors, the total number of businesses dealing with serious encryption key pain is only going to go up.
At a SWIFT-run business forum a few years ago, a handful of banking insiders gave a rundown of the cybersecurity threats that keep them up at night. Some of what they were worried about was predictable—giant data breaches running hundreds of millions of dollars, adversaries getting smarter and more sophisticated, etc.—but some of it displayed a little more nuance. Some were specifically worried that they might completely miss a cyberattack and only realize what had happened much later (which is hardly an implausible scenario). Others were worried about the high rate of false positives in anti-fraud operations.
Right now, your bank is probably vulnerable to costly cyber attacks. Why? Because, like most financial institutions, you probably haven’t implemented end-to-end encryption or robust endpoint protection. It’s easy to understand why something like this could fall through the cracks—no one wants to shell out for a complex software solution whose purpose they don’t fully get—but the next big cyber bank heist is coming, and you probably don’t want to be the victim.
In 2018, the Bank of Chile found that the malicious KillDisk virus had infiltrated 9,000 of its computers and 500 of its servers and was poised to wreak havoc on their internal systems. Understandably, they immediately went into crisis mode, working as quickly as possible to disconnect those workstations. During the ensuing flurry of activity, the hackers were able to perform their real attack completely unnoticed: $10 million worth of fraudulent SWIFT transactions that the bank was too busy to notice.