Cybersecurity Weak Link for Advisors: Stolen Logins

The majority of cybercrimes are perpetrated by stealing login credentials, according to DefenseStorm’s Nick Roberts, and the best prevention for advisors is to implement effective employee training.

Login credentials can be stolen in a number of different ways, ranging from complex zero-day hacks to actual phone calls where hackers impersonate IT vendors. Often times, antivirus software and anti-malware tools aren’t enough to stave off these attacks since the hackers responsible for them don’t necessarily need to break into anything. They simply convince an employee to hand over their credentials by asking for them in a clever way.

The best way to safeguard login credentials is to train employees to exercise caution when handing out their personal information. Employees should be trained to recognize phishing e-mails—fake e-mails prompting a user to input their login credentials. In addition, employees should exercise caution in opening unexpected e-mail attachments from both known and unknown senders and immediately report any suspicious activity.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that financial advisors should completely ignore technological cybersecurity solutions. Misconfigured or outdated systems can quickly become targets for hackers using old exploits, while new software that detects unusual activity can help immediately identify and disable compromised machines before they spread malware to an entire network or expose confidential client data. (For related reading see: What Advisors Need to Know About Ransomware)

Financial advisors should have written cybersecurity policies in place to comply with FINRA and SEC guidelines and ensure readiness in the event of an incident as well. As a part of these policies, firms may regularly audit user logins and service accounts to delete accounts of former employees, temporary workers, and any demo or trial accounts. Regular vulnerability scans may also be a good idea to ensure all systems are up-to-date.

In the end, financial advisors should keep in mind that not all cybersecurity attacks are high-tech endeavors. The most common attacks use known exploits—or not technical exploits at all—to steal employee login credentials and gain access to sensitive data. Advisors can safeguard against these kinds of attacks through a combination of employee training and software solutions designed to make detection easier. (For more, see: 7 Cybersecurity Tips for Advisors.)