27 October 2016
As banks increasingly adopt cloud technology, they need to take proactive measures to detect and guard against security threats. Image credit: Security Magazine
As banks increasingly adopt cloud technology, they need to take proactive measures to detect and guard against security threats. Image credit: Security Magazine

Protecting privileged accounts from cyber-attacks

You would probably be aware of the story on the Bangladesh central bank heist that made headlines earlier this year. 

Cyber-criminals attempted to steal nearly US$1 billion from the central bank after planning a heist for almost a year. However, thanks in large part to a spelling error, the attackers were able to get away with “only” US$81 million of the total attempted amount.

It was just one of numerous other similar bank heists that are only now coming to light. The advent of these incidents has led to an increased focus on financial service institutions (FSIs) in Asia as many of them are potentially vulnerable to cyber-attacks amid a rapidly changing IT landscape.

The emergence of cloud technology is a key trend that is set to change how banks operate. As cloud computing helps to improve staff productivity and efficiency in back-end processes, IT analyst firm IDC expects at least 80 percent of FSIs in the Asia Pacific region (excluding Japan) to run on a hybrid cloud architecture by 2018.

The cloud also enables banks to enhance their agility and increase the scale of their customers.

In Hong Kong, banks are employing both a pragmatic and ambitious approach to cloud adoption, mainly focused on improving IT responsiveness to internal operational demands to facilitate cost reductions and improved agility.

Public cloud initiatives are part of near-term plans of various banks in the city, particularly for new or expanded digital initiatives. Meanwhile, hybrid cloud initiatives are also used to increase usage rates and decrease the time required to establish and de-provision IT-enabled services.

While the case for cloud adoption is compelling, such a leap forward – like any technological change – exposes banks to a higher level of susceptibility for cyber criminals to penetrate their systems, paving the way for a potential loss of funds and information.

As banks increasingly shift technological applications and infrastructure to the cloud, privileged accounts in public, private and hybrid cloud environments will grow exponentially. No matter where they “live” – on-premises or in the cloud – privileged accounts need to be protected accounts.

Users who have wider access to corporate information and data are known as “super users” or “privileged accounts”. These individuals – including non-IT personnel – as well as accounts associated with certain applications, possess the credentials to acquire critical data and resources within IT networks and are thus a target group for cyber criminals.

It is, therefore, imperative to secure such accounts as they are often used to facilitate sensitive financial transactions. The onus is on IT teams to protect privileged accounts from the dangers of cyber threats lurking around.

Unique challenges emerge in cloud environments where new, powerful credentials are created to provision, configure and manage thousands of machines from a single console. New virtual machines are created with a single click, instantly creating new, unmanaged privileged accounts.

In this dynamic environment, it is essential that organizations have the ability to detect changes and monitor all activity for maximum privileged account security and adherence to compliance demands.

Privileged account security is designed to protect privileged accounts whether they are in on-premises, virtual or cloud environments. Privileged accounts for cloud management tools and APIs are secured, monitored and managed.

Working with automation tools such as Chef and Puppet, privileged account security is built into the cloud environment with automatic provisioning and seamless integration during cloud migration and on-going management.

This holistic solution enables organizations to leverage the benefits of cloud computing while reducing the risk of unauthorized access to privileged accounts.

Users would gain a plethora of benefits from ensuring privileged account security across virtualized and cloud environments. A single platform for privileged account security and compliance for all servers, network devices and applications facilitates efficient operations and streamlined management.

Additionally, implementing single sign on access to cloud-based servers and applications for IT administrators provides ease of use for the IT personnel and an additional layer of security for the organization, without requiring new passwords, identity and access solutions.

Monitoring super-user accounts is essential for banks to proactively detect security threats. By collecting and analyzing super-user account activity, IT teams will be able to identify and alert on anomalous behavior indicating malicious activity.

As banks keep pace with rapid technological advancements, cyber-criminals will also develop more sophisticated attacks. Given this, keeping security at the foreground of any implementation process is critical to ensuring that banks are protected.

– Contact us at [email protected]


Vice President, Asia Pacific & Japan, CyberArk

EJI Weekly Newsletter