The financial sector is home to the most coveted category of sensitive data amongst cybercriminals - customer financial information. As such, cybercriminals are continuously pounding against the industry’s cyber defenses, often finding their way through.

The good news is financial institutions could minimize their data breach risks with the right attack surface management product. To learn which key features to look for in an ideal ASM product optimized for the financial sector, read on.

Learn how UpGuard simplifies attack surface management >

Top 3 Features of the Best Finance Attack Surface Management Solutions

An ideal ASM tool for the finance sector should inlclude the following three features as a minimum.

1. Complete Asset Visibility

You cannot secure what you can see. Without confident (and up-to-date) knowledge of your complete asset ecosystem, you’re back could be turned to critical attack vectors while you focus on a fraction of your asset inventory.

In the finance sector, security teams play within a very narrow margin of error. When an attack vector is overlooked, it falls within the scope of cybercriminal reconnaissance.

Digital asset inventorying is equally as crucial as it is frustrating for cybersecurity teams. Frustrating because, thanks to the irresistible appeal of digital transformation, attack surfaces are constantly expanding, so security teams are always playing catchup with their growing attack surface. Remaining aware of your asset inventory is particularly challenging when this expansion occurs across a digital landscape far beyond the limits of conventional attack surface monitoring solutions, the third-party vendor network.

Learn how UpGuard protects the finance sector from data breaches >

An idealistic attack surface management solution is capable of mapping the complete scope of your financial attack surface, which is typically comprised of the following entities.

  • Domains - Any additional domains resulting from a financial entity’s expanding digital presence. It could include subdomains, such as, separate domains for new financial products, or financial apps and digital products requiring an internet connection.
  • Third-Party Vendor Domains - Though commonly overlooked in inventorizing efforts, third-party vendor domains are potential attack vectors leading to third-party breaches, mainly if your organization’s data flows through or is stored on that domain.
  • Web Servers - Web servers are a critical aspect of an organization’s attack surface as they’re usually connected to the internet (internet facing). As a financial entity adds new web apps to its product line, each newly required web server further increases its attack surface.
  • IoT Devices - From ATMs to IoT-dependant services, the financial sector is increasingly dependent on IoT devices. If not adequately secure, each IoT device is a potential network gateway and instrument of a type of service-disrupting cyber attack known as a DDoS attack.
  • Endpoints - Includes all devices that connect to a network and communicate with backend services, such as laptops, mobile devices, and virtual environments. The boom of the remote working error fuelled an explosion of endpoint attack surfaces.
  • Cloud services - As financial services migrate more of their data into the cloud, there’s an increasing reliance on cloud services, such as cloud storage and platform-as-a-storage solutions. Each cloud environment expands an organization’s attack surface since these IT assets are highly-susceptible to data breaches if they’re not configured correctly.
  • Network Devices: Devices such as routers, firewalls, and even wireless access points contribute to a significant portion of your attack surface. These devices are also vulnerable to misconfigurations and, therefore, exploitation.
  • Databases: Databases commonly host sensitive data and could facilitate unauthorized network access through a cyber attack method known as SQL injection.
  • APIs: Unsecured, internet-facing APIs serve as entry points leading to sensitive databases. Unsecured APIs don’t require a username or password to establish a third-party connection, meaning threat actors could effortlessly and rapidly achieve a data breach by exploiting them. The large-scale data breach suffered by Optus in 2022 occurred through an unsecured API.
  • Email Systems: Email is the most common medium for phishing attacks - the most popular initial attack vector for most cyber attack workflows. Email accounts are gateways to your network and its most sensitive resources, making these entities critical components of your attack surface.
  • Remote Access Services: All remote connection points are potential gateways to your internet network if their configurations aren’t secure.
  • Legacy Systems: Systems that are no longer supported or haven’t been protected with the latest application security patches create security gaps in your vulnerability management program.
  • User Accounts: Internal user accounts, especially those facilitating privileged access, are significant cyber risks. After breaching a network, hackers immediately start searching for privileged accounts so they can be used to access sensitive resources.
  • Mobile Apps: Mobile apps, especially those requiring access to sensitive customer information, are high-value targets for cyber threats.
  • Software and Hardware Assets: Any software applications and hardware devices, especially those connected to the internet, are potential gateways to your internal network through security vulnerabilities.
  • Service Providers - Third-party vendors and service providers provide a means for hackers to access your sensitive data through a pathway that circumvents common security control placements. Service providers are potential attack vectors leading to data breaches and supply chain attacks, making them essential considerations in risk management and external attack surface management strategies.
  • Shadow IT - Any on-premise remote device connected to a private network without the approval of security teams creates a potential malicious access point outside the scope of security strategies. Shadow IT integrations are not included in continuous monitoring efforts, making them highly susceptible to dangerous cyber threats like malware and ransomware.
All of your vendor assets form part of your extended attack surface.

How UpGuard Can Help

UpGuard’s attack surface monitoring solution helps financial services instantly map their entire digital footprint, including domains associated with vulnerable, unmaintained web assets. To help keep your IT inventory always up-to-date, UpGuard allows you to specify IP monitoring ranges so that any subdomains or IPs within those ranges are instantly monitored as soon as they become active.

IP ranges specifyng attack surface monitoring region on the UpGuard platform.
IP ranges specifyng attack surface monitoring region on the UpGuard platform.

Experience UpGuard’s attack surface management features with this self-guided product tour >

2. Attack Surface Reduction

The primary objective of attack surface management is to discover opportunities for reduction. The smaller your attack surface, the fewer opportunities cyber criminals have to compromise your sensitive financial data.

Some examples of attack surface reduction opportunities include:

  • IT assets that don’t require an Internet connection
  • Software security misconfigurations
  • Shadow IT devices
  • An abundance of physical plug-in devices (such as USBs and external hard drives)

See more attack surface reduction examples >

How UpGuard Can Help

UpGuard’s ASM solution easily identifies unused or unmaintained assets, significantly increasing your data breach risks. These security risks are included amongst other identified asset vulnerabilities in UpGuard risk profiled module, making it possible to establish a complete vulnerability management program for all your external assets.

Risk profile module on the UpGuard platform.
Risk profile module on the UpGuard platform.

Watch the video below to see how easy it is to compress your financial cyber attack surface with UpGuard.

Experience UpGuard’s attack surface management features with this self-guided product tour >

3. Real-Time Security Posture Monitoring

Following asset discovery and attack surface reduction, an ideal financial attack surface security tool should continuously monitor for emerging security risks impacting the organization’s security posture.

An organization’s security posture is a quantified representation of its level of cyber threat resilience, similar to how a credit score represents the financial risk of a customer.

Real-time monitoring means instantly identifying the security impacts of detected vulnerabilities, which could include SaaS security exposures or CVEs (zero-days). The ability to determine the severity of security exposure opens the door to advanced risk management techniques like the ability to prioritize critical threats in remediation efforts.

The continuous attack surface monitoring keeps a financial entity’s cloud security program optimized to the current threat landscape, keeping it relevant and effective.

Learn how to choose a cyber risk remediation tool for finanical services >

How UpGuard Can Help

UpGuard’s attack surface monitoring solution continuously monitors your internal and external attack surfaces, helping financial entities remain aware of emerging cybersecurity risks requiring attention.

Metrics feeding UpGuard’s security ratings.
Metrics feeding UpGuard’s security ratings.

Learn more about UpGuard’s security ratings >

With its security rating feature, UpGuard can quantify the security posture of a financial organization and its vendors, helping security teams understand which risks to prioritize to maintain a healthy degree of cyber threat resilience. When these features are applied to UpGuard’s Vendor Risk Management module, security teams have instant awareness of their third-party security risk distribution, improving third-party risk detection efficiency and the efficiency of all components of the VRM lifecycle, including risk assessments and remediation management.

Vendor risk matrix on the UpGuard platform.
Vendor risk matrix on the UpGuard platform.

Watch the video below to learn about some of UpGuard's features improving risk assessmentworkflows.

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