New research conducted by data security company Clearswift reveals that 70% of financial companies have experienced a cyber security incident in the past year, highlighting the serious threat that both data breaches and malicious attacks pose to the UK’s financial sector.
The research, which surveyed senior business decision-makers within enterprise financial organisations in the UK, found that almost half of the incidents reported over the past 12 months originated from employees failing to follow security protocol or data protection policies. This threat was biggest in mid-sized financial companies (with 3,000-4,999 employees) with 52% of respondents citing employee failure to follow corporate data protection policies as their biggest issue.
In addition to this, it was found that further causes of cyber security incidents within the financial sector included the introduction of malware and viruses via third party devices, including USBs and Bring Your Own Device (32%), file and image downloads (25%) and employees sharing data with unintended recipients (24%).
“The financial sector is the lynchpin of the UK’s economy and a vital part of our nation’s Critical National Infrastructure, so it’s alarming to see such high numbers of security incidents within financial organisations,” said Dr Guy Bunker, CTO at Clearswift. “Unfortunately, in this day and age it’s a case of ‘when’ not ‘if’ a firm is breached so the financial sector needs to shift gears and speed up the innovation and deployment of effective data protection and threat mitigation strategies.”
The numbers associated with security incidents are in stark contrast with further findings from the survey which revealed less than a quarter (23%) of respondents had an adequate level of budget allocated to cyber security within the firm. Unsurprisingly, 73% of respondents would like to see some – if not a significant – increase in their organisation’s cyber security spending.
Bunker added: “Whether it’s an inadvertent mistake, a malicious insider or an external threat actor that causes a security incident, the ramifications of data loss are extremely serious for any organisation. For those organisations who hold citizen data and their financial information, there’s a need for extra vigilance to protect that data no matter where it’s stored, how it’s processed or what digital collaboration channels it flows through. Understanding the latest threats and the potential consequences from next generation attacks will help drive the business case for investment in new technology to mitigate the risks.”
He continued: “Cyber security needs to rapidly evolve and the budgeting process should take this into account. The threat which can bring down a company may not have existed three months ago. Financial organisations need to be able to respond immediately in order to protect their reputation. While many areas of securing a company’s data can be improved by educating employees and developing clear policies and processes, technology plays a key role in mitigating today’s biggest threats through automating and enforcing security protocols. This requires investment. Great information security is a positive business differentiator and a driver of growth.”