Phrases like “unreliable” and “unsecure” often go hand in hand when it comes to the financial services industry. According to a 2013 survey from the Edelman Trust Barometer, less than 50 percent of Americans now consider banks trustworthy, a substantial decline since 2008, when 68 percent of Americans reportedly put their trust in banks.
Among those surveyed, financial services and banking industries were reported the least trusted industries in the world. The culprit for this rapid decline in trust in banks? Many industry experts suggest one of the primary factors is the emergence of cyber-attacks. The survey found a direct correlation between perceptions around privacy and security of personal banking information and trust ratings in banks.
As breaches become more common and garner additional attention from the media, many Americans continue to lose trust in the reliability of the U.S. financial industry to protect their personal financial data and resources.
The current level of distrust in banking actually presents an immediate opportunity for financial institutions to increase their security measures, which – in turn – can help improve their customers’ confidence and improve market share.
The primary challenge faced by financial institutions is that they are required to protect not just revenue but reputation. In order to do so successfully, banks should focus on threats that are not yet on their radar, rather than combat known and knowable threats. Banks need to take a more aggressive security stance and focus on the next generation of security threats– not merely issue incremental updates that only plug holes in existing architecture.
For example, one security strategy utilized by some financial institutions is a practice in which communication endpoints, such as laptops and servers are “cloaked,” rendering them undetectable to parties unaffiliated with a secure community of interest. Cryptographic keys allow members of a secure community of interest to access information on a need-to-know basis and safely complete financial transactions without compromise. Rendering endpoints and transactions undetectable eliminates the likelihood that they would ever be potential targets for malicious hackers or even unsuspecting employees.
Another innovative security measure that helps protect C-level executives from threats while they are on the road is providing them with military-grade USB-based devices that turn any customer PC or laptop into a device authorized for access to the secure network. This adds more protection to travelling executives who need to remotely exchange sensitive information and make high-value transactions.
Thinking of banking security in these progressive ways can not only provide extremely high levels of security for financial institutions’ IT networks, but can protect the financial resources of these organizations and their customers. The implementation of next-generation security technologies will allow banks and other financial institutions to offer new services and new levels of security to their customers. With increased security and protection will come renewed customer trust in financial services institutions.
Bob Olson is VP, Global Financial Services at Unisys. He has more than 30 years’ experience in the financial services and technology industries.