Alvin Mills

Alvin Mills
VP of Information, Technology & Security

COVID-19 blamed for 238% surge in cyberattacks against banks

This year, while virtually all sectors of the global economy fell victim to cybercrime of one kind or another, no sector was more regularly targeted than the financial sector. At an alarming rate, transnational organized crime groups are leveraging specialist providers of cybercrime tools and services to conduct a wide range of crimes against financial institutions, including ransomware campaigns, distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks and business email compromise (BEC) scams.”
— Jonah Force Hill, U.S. Secret Service Cyber Investigations Advisory Board

Cyber theif attackLet me start my column by sharing some troubling statistics:

  • 80% of surveyed financial institutions reported an increase in cyberattacks over the past 10 months, a 13% increase over 2019.
  • 27% of all cyberattacks in 2020 have targeted either the healthcare sector or the financial sector, according to VMware Carbon Black data.
  • From February to April 2020, amid the COVID-19 surge, cyberattacks against the financial sector increased by 238%, according to VMware Carbon Black data.
  • 82% of surveyed financial institutions said cybercriminals have become more sophisticated, leveraging highly targeted social engineering attacks and advanced TTPs (Tactics, Techniques, Procedures) for hiding malicious activity.
  • 64% of surveyed financial institutions reported increased attempts of wire fraud transfer, a 17% increase over 2019.
  • Ransomware attacks against the financial sector have increased by 9x from the beginning of February to the end of April 2020.

There are plenty more troublesome statistics to share, and these numbers will only increase. Organizations, or should I say most organizations, are still in this wait and see mode. When the mandate came down to get employees up and running first and foremost in order to service the customers, there wasn’t enough time to properly address each security risk. This has been especially the case for the financial sector.

But our community banks have stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the park once again. How do I know? I’m in constant communication with a great group of IT, security and compliance teams that along with the technical issues with the PPP and SBA loans, they’ve managed to ensure that the higher security risk have been addressed. Be sure and let these teams know how much you appreciate their dedication to their profession and the business.

When we formed the peer-to-peer sharing platform last year, I never fully realized its importance until this event happened. We now have roughly 75 members and growing. It’s very uncommon not to see at least one conversation on any given day. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that day. We have several channels for our bankers to obtain information on fraud, technology, threat-intel, cybersecurity and even COVID-19.

One of the biggest challenges that continues to be an issue is securing remote users. Think about it for a moment. We went from almost no remote workers to almost 100% overnight in most cases. This has meant on-the-fly risk assessments, controls adjustments and lots of work with IT and network operations teams.

In many cases, we have been forced to upgrade older technology and manage to get by from a performance perspective. Ensuring that remote desktop is secure, setting up VPN accounts, introducing new communication methods or setting up virtual desktops are just a few of the problems that our teams have solved.

Microsoft releases patches

Microsoft released patches for 129 vulnerabilities as part of its June Patch Tuesday updates — the highest number of CVEs ever released by Microsoft in a single month. On those, 11 of them were considered critical remote code-execution flaws. Fortunately, no zero-day exploits have been noted in the wild but it’s just a matter of time. Ensure that your systems and applications have been patched and updated.