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Choosing the Right Cybersecurity Firm for Your Business: Key Considerations and Pitfalls

Lorna Jones

Lorna Jones, Senior Cyber Security Consultant
Oct 23, 2023

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Navigating the Cybersecurity Partner Landscape: A Bank's Guide

As online and mobile banking become popular, so have cyber risks targeting financial institutions and customers. Banks now store troves of compassionate personal and financial data that criminals vigorously seek to exploit. Last year, over 50 major bank data breaches were reported, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center.

Staying ahead of threats requires comprehensive cybersecurity capabilities. But many banks need more specialised in-house talent covering the spectrum from application security to threat hunting. Recognising security gaps, forward-thinking institutions like First Digital Bank seek help. They need an external partner well-versed in the latest techniques used by hackers and cyber thieves.

"We're exploring managed security services that provide that expertise and resources so we can focus on customers," says your First Digital Bank's Chief Information Security Officer. "But with so many vendors purporting expertise, identifying the right partner is daunting."
Vetting vendor marketing claims becomes critical to find an ideal fit addressing the bank's unique needs and regulatory mandates. The stakes could not be higher. Just one high-profile breach permanently damages trust.

Exploring Third-Party Cybersecurity Partnership
Partnering with an experienced managed security services provider (MSSP) allows First Digital Bank to benefit from enterprise-grade capabilities minus the overhead of developing full-scale, in-house cybersecurity operations. Supplementing the IT team's skills makes sense.
Potential benefits include:

  • Threat monitoring.
  • Advanced threat protection.
  • Vulnerability assessments.
  • Compliance expertise.
  • Security device management.
  • Incident response services.
  • Layered advisory support.

These alleviate the burdens of internal tooling and talent.
But your business must proceed cautiously. Not all providers bring true sophistication. Some need bank-specific acumen. Others overpromise with cookie-cutter services. Identifying the ideal partner requires meticulous evaluation of security capabilities, industry expertise, flexibility, and responsiveness. Checking references becomes mandatory diligence. 

Pitfalls to Avoid When Selecting Security Partners

Navigating the crowded cybersecurity vendor landscape takes much work for banks to choose partners, exposing them to unnecessary risk rather than reducing it. Without rigour, critical dangers arise. Common pitfalls to avoid include:

Limited expertise –

Seek specialists with proven depth, specifically around modern techniques like threat hunting, attack simulation and emulation, cloud security, DevSecOps, and breach investigation. Avoid generalist jack-of-all-trades vendors whose practices breed mediocrity in crucial skills.

No industry specialisation –

experience specifically within financial services, given the unique systems, regulations, threats, and stakeholders. Avoid vendors lacking bank-specific acumen just because they service large enterprises. Industry expertise is pivotal.

Lofty but opaque promises –

Request tangible details and metrics on methodologies, technologies, and program outcomes versus vague claims or buzzwords. Beware managed security vendors vowing world-class capabilities but unable to explain how they achieve results.

Insurmountable sales pressure –

Tune out high-pressure sales overtures and commission-motivated consultants in favour of the patient, the consultative discovery of your needs. Customer priorities should always guide selections, not sales quotas.

No client references –

Insist on calls with current customer references at banks of similar size and needs to transparently attest to capabilities, cultural fit, and service levels delivered. Lack of referrals implies dissatisfaction.

Limited technical abilities –

Validate that vendors maintain advanced certifications like GCIH, GCIA, GCFA, OSCP, CCIE, and SANS coursework that require cutting-edge, hands-on skills. Avoid firms leaning on outdated technical capabilities.

Hidden costs –

Read contracts closely and probe potential add-on fees for extras, support, and service expansions that vendors bury until after signing. Transparency and aligned incentives are mandatory.

Scrutinising for these red flags protects banks from investing in vendors unable to deliver the sophisticated security required as threats increase. Do your diligence before deciding.

The High Costs of the Wrong Security Partner

Banks partnering with low-quality or inexperienced cybersecurity providers expose themselves to amplified risks and financial damages. Real-world cases underscore the potential consequences:

"Miami-based BankUnited suffered a $100 million loss in 2021 after hackers penetrated its systems. Investigations revealed that deficiencies from the bank's managed security services provider enabled the breach. The CEO acknowledged that outsourcing critical functions to an unqualified provider led to the incident."
"Hackers in 2016 stole $17 million from Bangladesh Bank by exploiting vulnerabilities in its connectivity to SWIFT financial networks. Bangladesh Bank had retained a local IT firm with inadequate security expertise to manage these critical systems, leaving gaps attackers leveraged for extensive fraud."
"Singapore's OCBC Bank saw $13 million stolen in 2022 following an SMS phishing scam. Security researchers found the bank's anti-fraud systems lacked sophistication compared to rivals, allowing more phishing texts to reach customers unchecked."
"State regulators fined Pennsylvania-based Choice Bank $600,000 in 2021 after a breach exposed 130,000 customer records. Audits determined that the bank's previous cybersecurity vendor neglected regulatory compliance, leaving systems susceptible."

These examples demonstrate the financial, regulatory and reputational consequences banks suffer when partnering with inexperienced or underqualified cybersecurity providers unable to secure sensitive banking environments effectively. Rigorously vetting vendor expertise, capabilities, and fit is crucial. And here are some of the statistics in the industry:

"63% of organisations report cyber incidents traced back to poor vendor security practices (Ponemon Institute)".
"Doubled likelihood of breach for banks with immature vendor risk management (BitSight)".
"47% of banking IT leaders report negative impacts from outsourcer cyber risks (Deloitte)".

The Role of AI in Bank Cybersecurity

Artificial intelligence and machine learning have become vital tools for banks seeking to bolster cyber defences and maximise the productivity of security teams. AI systems can process vast data, networks, behaviours and patterns to uncover risks and automate threat prevention.
For example, AI enables real-time scanning of millions of emails to instantly identify phishing lures and new fraud tactics, blocking them before employees see them. Natural language processing algorithms can parse context, intent and sentence anomalies to catch increasingly stealthy social engineering schemes. It allows a small team to monitor enormous email volumes.

AI analytics also help banks detect financial fraud by identifying suspicious transaction patterns like irregular transfers indicating stolen credentials or money mule activities. By continuously learning baseline behaviours, AI spots outliers early.

On the insider threat front, user behaviour analytics fed by AI/ML identify anomalous activities indicative of compromised credentials, data theft or illicit snooping before significant damages occur. The algorithms automatically refine baselines and flag risky deviations.
AI drastically expedites threat intelligence gathering and research by automating aggregation of external cyber crime sources, dark web forums, patch releases and more. Tools instantly process high volumes of data to help banks understand risks.

For infrastructure security, AI is being applied to proactively scan network configs and system logs to detect misconfigurations or activities that correlate with potential attacks. Finding oversights faster bolsters resilience.

Leading banks report AI-enabled phishing defences blocking over 90% of social engineering attacks and time savings scaling into thousands of hours annually that can be reallocated to higher-value security tasks. AI represents a force multiplier for maximising the productivity of bank cybersecurity teams.

Critical Criteria When Selecting Cybersecurity Firms

Through your due diligence, your business developed a framework to cut through vendor noise and identify the ideal technology partner for First Digital Bank. Your checklist must include the following:

Defined Methodology
  • Require partners to outline their methodologies for major domains like application security, cloud security, network defence, and vulnerability management.
  • Ask how they maintain and advance their methodologies based on threat research, new techniques, and changing bank needs.
  • Demand specifics - detailed sample reports, assessments, and deliverables that demonstrate their methodology rigour.

Bank Regulation Fluency
  • Verify expert knowledge of regulations like GLBA, PCI-DSS, FDICIA, and NYDFS Cybersecurity rules that heavily influence infosec programs.
  • Ask how their offerings help banks comply with oversight expectations across these policies.
  • Require examples of how they've tailored programs to compliance needs at banks.

Specialised Talent
  • Look for respected certifications, including CISA, CISSP, OSCP, CCSP, GCIH, GCWN, and GASF, that require ongoing learning.
  • Your business must demand seasoned bank cybersecurity experts and threat intelligence analysts versus general practitioners.
  • Validate through bios, resumes, and examples that staff have relevant hands-on experience securing banks.

Customised Offerings
  • Seek vendors who eschew preset packages for fully customised service bundles tailored to your bank's needs.
  • Require flexibility in selecting specific capabilities like threat monitoring, vulnerability testing, and forensics vs. blanket services.
  • Ask for sample MSSP designs created for banks like yours.
The right fit forks narrowly into specialisation over broadness. Checking these boxes instils confidence that the chosen provider can capably guide and strengthen the bank's security posture over the long term against an ever-changing threat landscape.

Beginning the Technical Vetting and Selection Process

By establishing criteria upfront based on your bank's priorities, you can approach the cybersecurity partner selection process with clarity rather than feeling overwhelmed. Your checklist provides a framework for cut-through rigorous vendor evaluations.

The process begins by meeting with vendors like SecureNet, an MSSP known for delivering tailored information security solutions to banks. Avoid those unwilling to invest time in understanding your environment and needs.

Initial meetings allow you to assess each firm's grasp of your specific banking cybersecurity challenges and their ability to explain how their capabilities directly address those needs. Consider if vendors offer generic proposals rather than tailored solutions.
Request details on the proposed consulting team's certifications, experiences, and specialities. Require they have financial industry backgrounds. Ask for sample deliverables like security assessments.
Evaluate their methodologies by security domain:

Network & Infrastructure –

Do they demonstrate expertise in modern techniques like attack simulation, next-gen firewalls, and micro-segmentation?

Endpoint Security –

Can they discuss the latest endpoint detection and response capabilities?

Application Security –

What is their methodology for dynamic testing, static analysis, and remediation?

Cloud/Data Security –

Do they implement data loss prevention, rights management, and cloud access security brokers?
Third-Party Risk – How do they evaluate vendor security postures on your behalf?

Drill into details on threat intelligence –

can they customise and contextualise feeds? Threat hunting? Incident response services? Staff training capabilities? Confirm they have experience tailoring MSSP deliverables to banks your size.

Only firms who are willing to provide specifics on deliverables or able to articulate their value. The ideal partner will distinguish themselves through customer-centric, technically-grounded responses demonstrating valid specialisation.

Investing in Strategic Security Partner Should be the priority of your business

The stakes could not be higher for banks to choose the right cybersecurity partner to meet today's increasing threats. Yet the vendor landscape still needs to be filled with potential pitfalls for institutions pressured to show due diligence in protecting compassionate customer data.
Banks can identify partners that best fit their unique needs by establishing rigorous selection criteria focused on specialised financial industry expertise, proven methodologies, technical capabilities and tailored offerings. Aligning with leading MSSPs demonstrates to customers, regulators and stakeholders that cyber resilience is paramount.
Microminder Cybersecurity brings over decades of accelerating bank cyber protections through managed detection and response, assessments, and advisory services. Our banking-specific solutions and experience enable clients to optimise limited resources while benefiting from enterprise-grade capabilities.
In today's threat climate, banks can only afford to settle for security partners able to address their challenges fully. With a discerning selection process, they can confidently navigate the future, knowing customer assets and trust are secured. Book a call with us today and join thousands of businesses in the comfort and reliability of cyber protection.

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