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The Cybersecurity Checklist for Financial Service Firms

By November 16, 2020No Comments

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Download the Cybersecurity Checklist by SWK Technologies to learn how to protect your financial services firm and ensure compliance with state, industry and federal regulators. Built with core FINRA and SEC regulations in mind and with additional requisites supplied by SWK’s experts, the checkable items on this list will allow you to measure your firm’s protections in place. If even one of these requirements is not met, it could reflect significant risk for audits as well as data breaches by both hackers and internal bad actors.

The shift to the new normal has brought millions of non-essential employees to work from home (WFH) environments and amplified existing dangers in network security and compliance. Brokers, dealers, financial advisors, wealth managers and more collect, store and remit vast amounts of personal client information regularly that present many opportunities for cybercriminals, and many noncompliance risks. Checking off the items on SWK’s list will give you better, more informed sense of where you stand and what remaining steps you need to complete.

Here are the biggest threats to your firm the Cybersecurity Checklist will help you uncover and determine if you have enough protection against:

Data Risk Assessment

As a professional financial services firm your business runs on data, and bad actors are well aware of this fact, and will exploit it if the opportunity presents itself. Regulators are also increasingly mindful of the role personal identifiable information (PII) plays for both consumers and hackers, and legislation at multiple levels obliges you to safeguard client privacy. To ensure your employees are able to do their jobs effectively day to day (especially when working from home), you must understand your cyber risk and take action accordingly.

Information Privacy Compliance and Best Practice

The GDPR redefined privacy across the EU, the CCPA transformed consumer protections in California, and New York has passed multiple laws (23 NYCRR 500, NY SHIELD Act) that enforce data security. FINRA and the SEC have implemented their own stipulations for financial service firms like yours to expand upon these state and federal regulations, and refine the provisions for the unique demands of the industry. All of these requirements compel you to protect your client information collected through any touchpoint, for any reason, and no matter where it is stored.

It is important to note that many regulators are still playing catch-up with consumer expectations of data privacy. Any firm that is hacked and exposes customer records through negligence will undoubtedly lose reputation – one that is aware of a breach but does not inform their clients will be even more stigmatized. If you want to keep your business, you must take every action available to protect your clients’ data.

Third Party and Internal Cyber Threats

While so much of the cyber threat discussion is caught up with external hackers, it can be easy to overlook the very real dangers closer to home. Whether it is through a third party vendor’s negligence or an internal bad actor’s discreet infiltration, the end result is the same. Your data security plan must include controls for what data is shared and how, and be able to limit the impact of a backdoor breach.

Cybersecurity Training, Tools and Threat Detection

The strength of your firm’s data protections is only as secure as the human factor – every (including your employees, managers, and YOU) potentially owns keys to the kingdom. Everyone can be a target for their level of access, even those with basic permissions. Implementing a cybersecurity training program is a must, as is having the right tools to reduce human error and testing for vulnerabilities regularly.

Data Protection Solutions

There are many solutions that a modern financial service firm can deploy to cybersecure your data, ranging from software to internal policy and to outsourced service. These should be used in conjunction to shore up any weaknesses as best as possibly. For example: a password policy will help employees better stick to practice, while MFA (multi-factor authentication) and encryption programs will stop attackers that slip past.

Employee Security Training

Transparency, visibility and awareness are the biggest factors in quickly identifying actual malicious activity. If your whole team knows who is supposed to do what and where within your network, it is much easier to sniff out when someone is doing otherwise. Your cybersecurity training and user guidelines should be able to cover all of these bases and help employees recognize where either their behavior or that of others represents a risk.

Cyber Threat Detection and Testing

Just with many aspects of business, compliance and technology, cyber threats are always evolving and the steps you took to protect yourself yesterday may not work tomorrow. Your firm must stay up to date on the latest news and education, but you should also commit to regular network penetration testing to get the full measure of your cyber defense.

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Incident Response and Business Continuity Plans

COVID-19, wildfires, hurricanes and many, many data breaches have more than illustrated why every business should have several incident response strategies in place. In financial services, you are also required by FINRA and the SEC to have a business continuity plan (BCP) that enables you to continue providing for your clients ASAP post-event. As a customer-facing entity, you must show that you have prepared for these eventualities and can continue to serve your patrons after a timely recovery period.

Data Backup and Storage

Backing up your data helps maintain it in the event your system goes down; however, how and where these backups are stored plays a big role in their viability. The frequency can also be a deciding factor in maintaining integrity, as a past manual migration will likely not be completely up to date. Modern solutions that leverage the latest technology provide some additional assistance and automation, with easier transfers and background updates made more accessible.

Disaster Recovery Plan

Recovery goals are an integral part of a well-prepared BCP, and should reflect what you need to get priority resources back online post-disaster. There are many factors that go into restoring your system to full capacity, but the top items should all feed into the ultimate objective of reducing the damages of downtime.

FINRA Compliance While Working from Home

The most important thing to remember for improving your firm’s cybersecurity stance is that the new normal has amplified a variety of historical threats and vulnerabilities. The shift to working from home was uncharted territory for too many, and the opportunities instigated the greed of many hackers.

While digital transformation may have enabled you to accelerate your operations with technology, has it also helped you equate security with productivity yet? No matter your answer to this question, the best way to protect yourself is to dive deep into your processes and determine where cyber risk can be reduced.

Download the Cybersecurity Checklist for Financial Services

Financial services require the passing of sensitive data and records to facilitate your role – that makes you vulnerable to all manner of cyber threats and compliance risks. It is better to be safe than sorry, and downloading SWK’s Checklist will help you uncover the gaps that could put everything you work for in danger.

Download the Cybersecurity Checklist here and reach out to SWK Technologies if you have any questions, concerns or immediate security issues to solve.

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