As cybercriminals employ increasingly advanced techniques to steal sensitive financial data, securing customers personal identifiable information must continue to be a top priority for organizations. This article explores common vulnerabilities in financial data systems and how a new breed of artificial intelligence (AI) tools can help protect this information against emerging cyberthreats.
Threats Growing in Scale and Impact
While phishing, malware and weak encryption have always posed risks, today’s attackers are supercharging these threats by leveraging AI. Criminals now carry out attacks at unprecedented scale and impact by:
- Coordinating mass phishing campaigns designed to steal credentials
- Rapidly developing sophisticated malware that locks systems for ransom
- Exploiting vulnerabilities in encryption protocols across networks
Already, cybercrime is a $6 trillion industry, with small businesses being some of the most vulnerable. In fact, an estimated 82% of ransomware attacks target companies with fewer than 1,000 employees. These smaller organizations lose $25,000 per attack on average, not to mention the irreparable harm done to their reputations.
Worse still, these alarming statistics mostly predate mainstream artificial intelligence tools such as ChatGPT. As AI technology becomes more advanced and widespread, there will likely be an exponential escalation of cybersecurity threats. Whereas criminals only need to be right once, your organization must be right 100% of the time.
Constant vigilance is the only way to protect yourself from these evolving threats.
The Promise and Challenge of AI Security
Although criminals are deploying AI for cyberattacks, organizations can fight back with their own artificial intelligence tools to bolster their defenses.
AI is transforming financial data security by:
- Automated threat detection — identifying anomalies and emerging dangers
- Adaptive system strengthening — securing vulnerabilities before they are exploited
- Real-time incident response — enabling immediate actions against threats
The arms race is constant, however, as attackers also enhance their AI capabilities. As such, many organizations now outsource their security operations to dedicated artificial intelligence tools that provide 24/7 monitoring and defense.
AI is not a silver bullet, and securing data requires a layered approach with vigilant human oversight in addition to organization-wide buy-in.
The Weakest Link: Employees
While artificial intelligence delivers advanced monitoring and threat detection, determined attackers will always target an organization’s most vulnerable point — its people. Employees often circumvent or ignore security best practices for convenience, leaving openings for criminals to exploit.
That’s why it’s critical to get full staff buy-in on policies such as:
- Using encrypted VPNs when working remotely
- Maintaining updated antivirus software
- Creating strong, frequently changed passwords
- Locking devices when not in use
In addition, limiting employee access to sensitive data on a need-to-know basis (also known as the principle of least privilege) can help dramatically reduce your organization’s risk. Giving workers broader access than their role requires creates unnecessary security vulnerabilities.
With comprehensive security awareness training and cultivating an organizational culture focused on safety, companies can empower their team to become a strong line of defense rather than the weakest link. An AI system is only as secure as the people using it.
As cybercriminals become increasingly sophisticated, both AI and vigilant employees are crucial to protecting sensitive financial data. While AI provides advanced threat detection and faster response times, well-trained staff are vital for upholding best security practices day-to-day. By combining adaptive AI systems with company-wide participation in policies for strong passwords, encrypted VPNs and updated software, organizations can create layered defenses to get ahead of emerging threats.
For more details on risks to financial data and how AI is transforming security, be sure to review the accompanying resource.
Infographic created by DFIN, an SEC reporting software company