Cyber security framework to prepare banks for the future

Reported by: |Updated: September 20, 2016

Shrikant Shitole is managing director, Symantec, India Region
Shrikant Shitole is managing director, Symantec, India Region

Businesses operating in the financial services domain are constantly innovating to equip its customers with modern products and services. Technology has enabled them to conceive deliver, manage and integrate their products in line with the customers’ needs; it has additionally provided banks with competitive differentiator to sustain existing customer base and acquire new customers. It has changed the fundamentals of the financial services sector from a labor-based model to a more automated, process-driven one. As consumer behavior evolves, traditional players are facing new competitors in direct and mobile banking. The evolving payments market is further paving way for digital alternatives, thus widening the array of competitors.


On the sidelines of such a technology upheaval, cyber-attacks on financial services organizations are becoming increasingly diverse and therefore unpredictable. The change in business landscape combined with the infrastructure modernization has opened up avenues for cyber criminals making security an architectural need, rather than a product play. Financial gain is still one of the major motivations behind most cybercriminal activities. The nature of the information stored by banks – makes them a lucrative target. Symantec’s Internet Security Threat Report, Vol. 21 revealed that 40 percent of BFSI businesses were attacked at least once in 2015.

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has recently mandated the creation of a Cyber Security Framework to fortify the security postures at banks. Banks are now mandated to formulate a Cyber Crisis Management Plan (CCMP) which will address the aspects of detection, response, recovery and containment. Despite banks’ overhaul to combat cyberattacks through multi-level authentication, secure transaction etc., the intent for such a policy is to enhance the resilience of the banking system by improving their current defenses, primarily addressing internet-based threats. As per the advisory by RBI, the cyber security policy should be separate from the broader IT policy so that it can highlight the risks from cyber threats and the measures to address them. This would entail building a security conducive IT architecture to ensuring cyber-security awareness among stakeholders, top management, board etc. Banks need to proactively deploy, modify, upgrade and fine tune their existing policies, procedures and technologies based on new developments and emerging concerns.


Different markets’ maturity levels require different needs, but for cybersecurity, the basic objectives remain the same regardless of location: to keep out network intruders, and to protect the company’s valuable assets. With product innovation and modernization of IT as top priorities for banks, cyber security needs to exist as the precursor in order to ensure that data is protected. Keeping awareness at the forefront, banks should adopt an information centric approach which will enable security experts and advisors to better evaluate the environment and deploy suitable solutions. The information centric approach as opposed to a system centric approach, is centered on a database, subsystem, or device. It includes envisioning the information infrastructure, information intelligence, and information governance. Banks today need intelligent, accurate threat detection and proactive notification of emerging threats. The protection of customer data can be enhanced by knowing where the data resides within the organization, when it is in transit within themselves or with customers or with the third party vendors.

This approach will enable security experts and advisors to better evaluate and deploy suitable solutions such as Incidence Response, leveraging a Security Operations Center (SOC) to monitor and manage cyber risks in real time, and implementing solutions like Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) to combat advanced threats. Deployment of solutions such as Data Loss Prevention, Server Protection, Global Threat Intelligence, Identity Access Management, and Endpoint Management will enable banks to effectively manage the digital transformation while building a robust cybersecurity architecture. The information centric model represents a blueprint for enterprises to adopt and aspire, keeping their core business at the core.

On one hand, the mounting threat landscape is making it increasingly difficult to retaliate cyber attacks and eliminate criminals but on the other hand, it is possible for not only banks but for every organization to defend themselves without disrupting innovation and growth – through early detection of threats backed by the right infrastructure, strategy and intelligence in place.

Shrikant Shitole is managing director, Symantec, India Region