Financial Services Threat Landscape: Where’s the Money?

August 10, 2015
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2 min read

Where’s the money? One would think the obvious answer is in the bank. While not always physically true, it is technically accurate. For our purposes, being technically true in the financial services industry is all that matters.

John Dillinger, a famous bank robber, once said, “All my life I wanted to be a bank robber. Carry a gun and wear a mask. Now that it’s happened, I guess I’m just about the best bank robber they ever had.” But if I want to steal your money, the safest way to do it is from the comfort of my own home. In today’s cybersecurity world, the gun and mask are no longer required, but a computer and a specific set of skills are necessary tools.

Financial Services Remains a Target

The bad guys know where the money is. In IBM’s new report, the “2015 Cyber Security Intelligence Index for the Financial Services Industry,” we illustrate this fact. According to the data, over 25 percent of tracked incidents targeted the financial services sector alone. This kept the industry first among the top five attacked industries for 2014 and 2013.

Figure 1. Top five targeted industries, based on IBM Managed Security Services data. Source: IBM.

The Big Bad Wolf, or Dyre Wolf

The financial services sector is such a tasty target that we see huge strategic campaigns designed to take advantage of it, in addition to cross-industry threats resulting from designer vulnerabilities like Heartbleed and Shellshock. Thanks to considerable improvements in bank security measures, the risk-to-reward ratio for physical bank robbery has made that a far less appealing undertaking, but the threat from cybercrime continues to grow.

In April 2015, the IBM Threat Research group published a paper examining one threat in particular. This report focused on the massive risk involved with the incredibly sophisticated attack known as Dyre Wolf, which was responsible for the theft of millions of dollars from various enterprises.

The complicated nature of this campaign shows that the threat against the financial sector continues. Dillinger might be disappointed with the lack of a gun and mask. But he may be pleased that his attacker legacy lives on in cyber space — and these attacks show no signs of slowing down.

Read the complete 2015 Cyber Security Intelligence Index for Financial Services

Nick Bradley
Practice Lead, Threat Analysis Group IBM X-Force IRIS

Nick Bradley possesses more than 20 years of physical and cyber security experience. Nick currently manages IBM’s X-Force Threat Analysis Group which is a ...
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