Financial advisers must stay alert to Russian cyberattack

While no known major cyberattack has succeeded in disrupting the US financial system Since the start of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, US authorities and cybersecurity experts have been warning US companies, including independent consulting firms, to remain vigilant.

Late last month, the White House warned that Russia might consider launching cybersecurity attacks in response to US sanctions imposed on Russia. While no specific threats are imminent, there is “evolving intelligence” that Russia is “exploring options for potential cyberattacks.” according to a statement from President Joe Biden.

While infrastructure companies such as energy providers are most at risk, cybersecurity experts warn that financial services firms also have targets on their backs. The President’s statement was shared by FINRAwho urged brokerages to implement best practices to strengthen cybersecurity defenses.

Even small independent consulting firms, which may still have access to millions of dollars in assets as well as their clients’ sensitive personal information, need to be prepared.

“All financial companies are currently on heightened alert,” said Carlos Legaspy, president and CEO of Insight Securities. “The financial system is part of this critical infrastructure. Increased vigilance is placed on ransomware attacks as the goal of Russian agents would be to cripple, and not necessarily steal, customers’ identities.

Phishing attacks, where malicious actors use social engineering, such as a spoofed email, to trick a victim into giving up their credentials, have especially increased in recent weeks, said Ryan Fickel, director of the technology and director of information security at AE. Wealth management.

“Financial services firms should take this opportunity to be proactive in a number of areas to prevent these exploits,” Fickel said. “For small businesses that do not have an internal infrastructure and dedicated security resources, a qualified service provider should be hired to ensure that all devices and software are patched, and that appropriate security controls are in place. in place and actively monitored.”

Education and training of personnel remains one of the most cost-effective methods of preventing attacks, Fickel said. But one thing every business should do is implement multi-factor authentication wherever possible, he said. MFA requires verifying credentials with two mechanisms (such as receiving a code texted to your phone after entering your password), which can make systems much harder to access for malicious actors.

However, even basic cybersecurity practices are still not followed by many companies, said David Murphy, a former consultant to the National Security Agency’s IT network operations team and chief cybersecurity officer at the firm of Schneider Downs consultancy. “Weak passwords continue to be a significant issue, and the second thing is general [software] patching… Some things are not automatic updates. You must manually browse and update systems.

This is the first time the intelligence community has mentioned a specific heightened threat from Russia to the general public, he added. Even if Russia does not launch an attack, it is important that companies remain aware of and comply with evolving SEC standards for cybersecurity reporting.

“Even after this conflict in Ukraine is over, I see it as something that only increases over time,” Murphy said.