In recent years, the financial services industry has been going through transformative changes to embrace digitalisation and keep up with customers’ demand for online services. The pandemic and its pervasive effects on society only contributed to accelerating these evolutions. Now the switch to remote working has been more or less resolved by most firms, new priorities must be defined.
Martyn Crew is Director, Industry Solutions at Gigamon. He brings a 30 year background in all aspects of enterprise IT to his role at Gigamon where he focuses on a number of initiatives and products including Gigamon’s Application Visibility and Intelligence solutions
Here, Crew outlines some of the most pressing IT and security hurdles currently faced by financial services providers, as they look to modernise their systems and processes to remain operational and competitive in this new world; and will give practical advice on how they can be overcome with enhanced visibility:
The financial services landscape is completely unrecognisable to that of ten years ago. With the emergence of digital-only banks, alongside the impressive growth in online banking solutions – 80% of the UK population claims to bank online these days – dramatic digital transformation across the entire finance industry was inevitable. However, it has been accelerated far beyond what analysts would have predicted before the emergence of Covid-19, and such a rapid digital evolution has left vulnerabilities that need to be addressed. As the online threatscape continues to expand, and cybercrime is exacerbated by the mass shift to remote working, financial services firms face the need to drastically improve their digital defence systems. So much so, Deloitte predicts, that the FS sector will see a 64% increase in cybersecurity investment across 2021. With such critical data to protect across their networks, these businesses will be looking for cyber solutions that not only function in disrupted environments but also protect their millions of users across their often numerous platforms.
Digital transformation within the world of finance has shown that technology can and will move rapidly, and in the current climate, it is essential to offer efficient online solutions that match consumer demand. Previously, for financial firms trying to adapt to a technology-first approach, siloed applications that fit their customers’ separate banking needs may have seemed like the simplest solution. However, in order to create a more seamless user experience, those applications must now be connected. Business development and IT teams are therefore coming together to drive agility and innovation, no longer battling an adversarial relationship and ensuring the digital experience is streamlined. As teams become more united, and technology is implemented across the board, complete network visibility needs to become a top priority.
A central challenge across recent months has been for NetOps teams to rise to the challenge of doing more with less. As digital transformation has been a focus for businesses globally, CFOs have tightened their purse-strings, sometimes to the point of refusing further investment until we enter a more stable, post-vaccine era. For the investments that are moving forward, ROI is more important than ever before. Therefore, enhancing infrastructure visibility is essential.
At the risk of oversimplifying a complex concept – you simply cannot manage what you cannot see. In order to monitor traffic and users, as well as ensure that applications are functioning effectively to prevent cyberattacks, financial services firms must maintain visibility into a variety of environments: on-premise, cloud and – now – hybrid infrastructure. This visibility is particularly challenging for firms operating with legacy technology, as network optimisation is only really possible if all generations of systems are monitored simultaneously. A clear view of all data in motion will ultimately make it easier for Network Detection and Response tools to identify a looming DDoS attack, for example. With more warning and preparation, comes a better and quicker ability to react, reducing network downtime and avoiding the negative impacts that system failures may have on the user experience.
A Zero Trust approach
Visibility is also central when adopting a Zero Trust approach to cybersecurity. Rather than a system or application that enables a more secure network, Zero Trust is a concept and set of principles that eradicates implicit trust, even to internal members of an organisation. Introducing this architecture is particularly beneficial for businesses storing and monitoring critical data, and therefore should be something financial organisations consider. If every user and device is viewed as a potential risk, network infrastructure will automatically be more secure, and organisations can begin to encourage a security-first mindset company-wide. Complete network visibility is essential for enabling a Zero Trust framework to function, as all traffic must be monitored and analysed before being granted, or refused, access.
Network optimisation will be a key tenet of the next year of business, as organisations continue to feel the financial effects of a year in lockdown and will prefer optimising their current tools to investing in new ones. Visibility is again essential for optimisation. IT teams must be able to accurately inspect all data in motion, even encrypted traffic, in order to categorise it into safely sourced data – like that from Zoom or Microsoft Teams – or risky, unrecognised data that needs further inspection. From there, NetOps experts can ensure that only the necessary traffic is sent to each tool, while filtering out the lower risk, duplicate or unimportant data. Not only does this visibility and optimisation lead to a more efficient network, but also a more productive workforce. Less traffic volume results in fewer tickers and alerts, ultimately allowing quicker response to the important issues and a more efficient time to resolution.
Although investments into improved network visibility may seem like a daunting decision for businesses in the current climate, increased visibility reaps numerous benefits. Not only does cybersecurity improve twofold, but IT tools and teams are optimised and more productive, meaning ROI becomes almost instant. The UK may now have a roadmap to recovery, but financial services firms should not be fooled into thinking their customers will want a return to full normality. Despite cybersecurity threats continuing to increase, digital banking solutions are here to stay, and new digital transformation initiatives mean that network visibility is more integral than ever before.