4 min read  | Financial cybersecurity

Is penetration testing for financial institutions effective?

Financial institutions are the lifeblood of our economies. Without them, it’s hard to imagine an economy that thrives or functions in an orderly manner.

If you think about it, these organisations are the bankers of a nation, literally and factually. From providing loans to individuals and businesses to regulating financial forces in the economy, they do it all. 

Today, their interactions with various stakeholders create a large reserve of critical data, which is known as personally identifiable information (PII). It is this data that is processed and stored on their servers. 

Unfortunately, PII is a prime target for cybercriminals due to its value on the dark web; a fact that has increased the cybersecurity risks these institutions face.

Traditionally, penetration testing has been the go-to strategy to ensure the integrity and security of these networks and information systems. In recent times, however, there has been a debate about the effectiveness of penetration testing for financial institutions.

At Triskele Labs, our team believes in the potential of a pen test that’s conducted thoroughly and with the right expertise. In this post, we explore the effectiveness of penetration testing when it comes to identifying and addressing vulnerabilities in financial institutions.

Is penetration testing critical for financial institutions?

Cyber attacks targeting the financial industry have become increasingly common in the recent past. When successfully executed, they cost millions of dollars worth of damages and tarnish the reputation of the financial industry. As we write this, the banking industry loses almost $18.3 million per company due to data breaches. 

The COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated this instability as it forced institutions to adopt remote work, increasing the industry’s attack surface. According to recent reports, the accelerated digitalisation of the financial sector in 2020 has increased the number of cyber attacks across the finance industry by 13% compared to 2019.

All of these trends point towards the fact that effective cybersecurity is more critical than ever. In this regard, penetration testing can prove highly useful.

Using penetration testing to identify cybersecurity vulnerabilities

Penetration testing can reveal vulnerabilities in your cybersecurity posture at both the application level and infrastructure level. This is because contrary to popular belief, pen testing does not only target your network and its devices. 

The first step in this process is targeting the more personnel-heavy components of your security strategy because human error is one of the biggest causes of data breaches. 

By targeting your team, penetration testers determine the level of knowledge employees have about cybersecurity, which, in turn, can be used to educate and train them on how to detect and avoid cyber attacks.

Apart from targeting people, penetration testers also try to infiltrate networks using compromised devices. By identifying these devices and gaps in your strategy, cybersecurity experts are able to help you create more holistic strategies based on risk controls.

Using penetration testing to rectify identified vulnerabilities

As established before, pen testing can reveal vulnerabilities in both human and non-human elements of your security strategy. 

By identifying these vulnerabilities, finance companies are empowered to take the necessary steps to address these using a combination of infrastructure development and employee training.

Security awareness training educates employees on the types of security attacks including phishing and social engineering, which are some of the most common and damaging types of attacks we’re seeing today. These exploit human biases and tendencies to gain access to sensitive information including login credentials.

According to what the data is telling us, employee training can reduce these threats by up to 72%—a significant improvement for financial institutions.

Pen testing is also effective in terms of infrastructure development, helping you identify which areas require more investment and upgrades. Over time, this can make it harder for cybercriminals to gain access to your financial information.

Leverage the potential of penetration testing for financial institutions to secure your data

Data breaches are the biggest challenges modern financial institutions are grappling with today.

If you’re at the helm of your business, you need to explore how to avail leading security solutions to bolster your cybersecurity. When you make the most of penetration testing for financial institutions, it’s easier to address deep-rooted vulnerabilities, human biases and errors and all the other factors that compromise your security posture.