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F5 Networks

Financial services head to the cloud to escape security concerns

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

The financial services industry is accelerating its shift to the cloud, as it presses forward with digital transformation in the face of security concerns. 

That’s according to the Financial Services edition of F5’s 2020 State of Application Services (SOAS) report, which says 60% of surveyed organisations in the industry believe public cloud platforms will be strategically important for them in the next two to five years, up sharply from 49% in 2019.

It comes as 84% of financial services organisations execute on digital transformation plans, with three quarters saying the key driver is to increase the speed of new product and service deployment.

Cloud adoption is increasing even as security concerns remain widespread. While two-thirds of organisations are confident in their ability to withstand an application attack on premises, only 40% said the same when it comes to the public cloud. 

“The idea that financial services applications would be the slowest to move into the cloud has been clearly disproven,” said Lori MacVittie, Principal Technical Evangelist, Office of the CTO at F5.

“Instead we are seeing the industry go ‘all in’ on multi-cloud adoption as organisations seek to increase the pace of their digital transformation and more quickly deploy the applications that will deliver a high-quality customer experience. Ultimately, financial services organisations that face growing competition from digital challengers are turning to the cloud to meet the needs of customers who now expect a seamless fintech service.” 

As cloud adoption increases, the F5 research says financial services organisations are seeking to balance the innovation imperative with security needs.

Many are looking to open banking, which 47% of surveyed organisations (among the two-thirds of respondents who provide banking services) have either implemented or plan to do so. Within this subset, 68% are deploying API gateways to deliver innovation, allowing them to securely share data with partners and open APIs to public developer networks.

82% of organisations with open banking initiatives have published APIs to third parties, compared to 62% of those not engaged in open banking.

The reports says that in this context security remains a pressing concern, especially with 87% of organisations embracing multi-cloud environments, and 41% determining the type of cloud to support an application on a case-by-case basis.

Asked about the biggest challenges of managing applications in a multi-cloud environment, 59% of respondents highlighted the need to apply consistent security policies across all company applications, well ahead of migrating apps among clouds/data centers (32%), gaining visibility into application health, or optimising the performance of the application (both 26%).

Security clearly resonates as a priority for the entire industry. Over half of respondents named it as the most important characteristic of an application service, while financial services leaders ranked real-time threat analytics as their number two strategic trend, compared to number six across all industries. Three quarters of respondents said it is important to enforce the same security policies on premises and in the cloud.

Nevertheless, the industry fears that it lacks the capacity to effectively respond to threats, with 72% of respondents reporting that they face a security skills gap.

The importance of security is further underlined by the applications financial services organisations choose to prioritise. Among the industry’s top five app services deployed today, four are security-focused: common security services and SSL VPN (both deployed by 86%), WAF (81%, up from 77% in 2019) and DDoS protection (80%).

That is balanced by a focus on application services that underpin the effort to drive high-quality customer experiences: 80% of financial services respondents said they are deploying services such as load balancing, global server load balancing and DNS, compared to 75% globally. 

Looking forward, the industry is planning to deploy application services that will support greater adoption of public cloud and modern (cloud- or container-native) architectures. 42% expect to deploy SDN gateways or SDN WAN in 2020 (up from 34% in 2019) while 39% will deploy API gateways (up from 27%) and 35% Ingress control (up from 21%).

46% of financial services respondents identified Software-defined networking (SDN) as a strategically important trend for them in the next 2-5 years, up from 42% last year.

Ramnit Trojan resumes attacks on European financial institutions

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

The Ramnit banking Trojan has returned to its old hunting ground after recent forays into the e-commerce space,

The discovery follows analysis by F5 Labs and F5’s EMEA-based F5 Security Operations Center (SOC) examining active Ramnit banking Trojan Malware configurations in February and March 2019.

All signs indicate that Ramnit’s authors are —once again—largely targeting financial services websites to coincide with Tax return activity, primarily in Italy.

Ramnit was previously hitting the headlines during the 2018 holiday season for shifting its attack focus to US e-commerce sites1.

In the most recent studied Ramnit sample active in March this year, the Trojan’s authors were primarily focused on financial services and financial tech sites in Italy (40% of all attacks). 9% of attacks were aimed at the UK and 8% at France2. Overall, 70% of all Ramnit targets in March were European, 27% American and 3% were located across the rest of the world3.

Interestingly, while social networking sites made up a smaller portion of targets observed in February and March, some of the biggest social networking platforms in the world were still under fire, including Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and YouTube. 

In other notable developments, F5 Labs was able to discover how this March’s Ramnit configurations are continually adapting, including scaling web injection tactics4 to attack websites5. An interesting innovation in this respect entailed going after targets with no link to a specific company or website.

Instead, several words in French, Italian, and English were added to the mix in the hope of catching random websites. Along with the simple word targets, Ramnit also included the name of an Italian Opera and a few misspelled domain names. 

“Ramnit is a persistent banking Trojan that first emerged in 2010 as a less sophisticated form of a self-replicating worm. Today, both its tactics and targets have evolved to include many other industries. It is highly adaptable, as we can see with this recent shift back to the financial sector, as well as its authors’ new attempt to expand the attack surface,” said Roy Moshailov, head of security and malware research, F5 Networks.

“It is critical for banks and financial institutions to implement web fraud protection solutions to protect their customers and to help ease the burden of fraud expenses—especially banks that are actively being targeted. Other industries also need to be aware of attackers’ increasingly clever techniques so they can take similar precautions. The main thing is not to be complacent. Because Trojan malware is typically installed through phishing or malicious advertising, it’s also vital that all organisations to provide security awareness training to employees and clients.”

Image by dawnfu from Pixabay