May 23, 2018 By David Bisson 2 min read

A series of penetration tests found that every bank is guilty of web application vulnerabilities and insufficient network security measures. According to a recent report from Positive Technologies, Bank Attacks 2018, 100 percent of banks suffered from these vulnerabilities and inadequacies.

The report also found server configuration flaws in all banks — while just over half were found to have improperly managed their user accounts and passwords.

Bank on It: Poor Security Practices

For its report, Positive Technologies analyzed the penetration tests it performed for certain banks over a three-year period. Its analysis suggested the current security level other organizations in the banking sector might have.

The security provider discovered that outdated software comprised the most prevalent type of vulnerabilities affecting banks’ IT assets. This discovery was followed by sensitive data stored in cleartext, dictionary passwords and the use of insecure data transfer protocols — all found in 58 percent of organizations analyzed.

Despite these flaws, penetration testers breached the network perimeter in just 22 percent of cases.

Positive Technologies observed that banks did a good job protecting the network perimeter but failed to safeguard the internal network properly. To illustrate, its researchers discovered dictionary passwords, insufficient protection against recovery of credentials from operating system (OS) memory and insufficient protection of service protocols against attacks at all banks.

These problems led researchers to obtain full control over the infrastructure at all tested banks — with one-third of organizations not even requiring maximum privileges for someone to access the ATMs or payment gateways.

Defending the Internal Network Against Attack

Positive Technologies reported that poor internal network security practices could expose banks to attacks like phishing campaigns. The organization’s cybersecurity resilience lead, Leigh-Anne Galloway, stressed that it’s not impossible to defend against these types of threats. She said banks could effectively prevent loss of funds if they detect an attack in time and implement appropriate security measures.

“Attachments should be scanned in a sandbox, without depending on endpoint antivirus solutions,” Galloway said in a May 2018 press release. “It’s critical to receive and immediately react to alerts with the help of an in-house or contracted 24/7 security operations center. In addition, SIEM [security information and event management] solutions substantially simplify and improve the effectiveness of incident management.”

The security firm also advised in its report that banks should “pool their knowledge” of attacks in an effort to make the industry safer as a whole.

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