10 Keys to Banking and Finance Website Security

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Today, more people bank online than ever before, whether it’s a simple balance check on an app or transferring money for bills and other payments. These same customers expect their banking and financial experience online to be secure, private, and consistent each and every time. As such, there are a number of features that banking and finance websites need, but perhaps none is more important than topnotch security.

Key #1: Dedicated Hosting

The first key to developing a bank or financial website with the highest quality security is to host the platform on a dedicated environment, as opposed to a one that is shared. This is important for a variety of different reasons. In shared hosting environments, websites quite literally share the same server space as other websites. In certain situations, this can cause a series of issues for platforms that require the ultimate in security, such as the websites or mobile applications for financial organizations.

One particular series of problems that shared environments pose relates to how the hosting provider actually furnishes a website its designated server space. Shared hosting environments are typically less expensive, so they do not provide the same benefits as dedicated servers. With shared hosting, a website’s ability to function normally and consistently is somewhat dependent upon the other websites using that same server. Naturally, this is a cause for concern.

With a dedicated hosting environment, however, only a single platform at a time runs off of each individual server. This means that companies like banks or other financial institutions can operate their online platforms without the concern that some other website or application could damage their bandwidth, storage space, or load times, ultimately creating a negative impact on the overall customer experience.

All of this amounts to much less control over how the server operates in shared environments than in dedicated ones. Less control also equates to less security, which is the primary reason that financial institutions should opt for dedicated hosting environments in the first place over shared data solutions.

Key #2: Encryption

The second key to security for banking websites relates to encryption. The industry standard is Secure Sockets Layer (more commonly referred to as SSL) encryption (256-bit). For short, it’s known as SSL 256-bit encryption. Conceptually, encryption is equivalent to encoding. In other words, to encrypt data, it must be rearranged (or coded) in such a way that individuals without the “key” to “unlock” the code cannot access the information stored within it. Because of this, banking and finance web platforms require SSL 256-bit encryption to ensure that their customers’ data is secure, private, and safe on the internet.

Just how secure is SSL? Well, to be very specific, there are more than 1077 possible combinations. In other words: it is virtually impossible to hack. As such, SSL is vital to a banking website’s integrity. 256-bit encryption is sometimes also called “military-grade” encryption because the armed forces and United States government also utilize it for their documents’ protection. That’s the level of security that clients’ financial data deserves and needs to be fully safeguarded from external threats.

Key #3: Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Prevention

The third key to protecting a banking website’s customers and their financial data is by preventing denial of service attacks. Denial of service is sometimes abbreviated DoS. (Another form is called DDoS — the extra D stands for Distributed — if the hackers approach from multiple sources.)

This sort of attack is also known as a brute-force tactic. In denial of service attacks, hackers or other malfeasant actors attempt to overload the servers of a particular website, thereby rendering the website in question unable to respond to actual users’ requests. If this happened to a banking institution, their customers might not be able to access their financial data. This could prevent them from doing anything with their assets held by that particular bank.

The way to prevent these denial of service strikes is multifaceted and relates to many of the topics discussed here. To begin with, a dedicated server, as mentioned previously, is far more robust than a shared one and is therefore more capable of defending against such attacks.

Key #4: Vulnerability Scans

There are also other sophisticated ways to attempt to stop such strikes in their tracks, as well as other sorts of hacking attempts, including the fourth key to securing a financial website: vulnerability scanning.

The objective of utilizing a vulnerability scanner is to spot areas or machines on a particular server that may be open to recognized vulnerabilities in a specific network or group of networks. Once these potential breach locations are identified, they can be patched by a software engineer to protect against digital break-ins via hacking attempts. Ideally, a vulnerability scanning tool should be routinely implemented every ninety days to ensure that a bank’s online platform is secure and airtight.

Key #5: Regular CMS and Plugin Updates

Another baseline, and the fifth key, for banking and financial online platforms’ security is actually quite simple: maintaining updated CMS and plug-ins at all times. This should also be checked every ninety days, along with the vulnerability scan, to support the security effort. If critical patches are released, these should be implemented immediately. A high-quality website development and security team will naturally provide such tools to its banking customers at the appropriate time or interval to maintain topnotch protection. It may seem minor, but something as simple as an outdated plug-in could be just the window a hacker needs to target vulnerable data.

Key #6: Intrusion Detection and Monitoring

The sixth key to banking and financial security for their websites and other online platforms is 24/7 monitoring, support, and intrusion detection. This particular element of web security functions in a very similar way to home security systems or surveillance cameras. That is, they really only work if they are always on. Without constant and continuous monitoring of a banking website, hackers could intrude whenever the watchful eye was turned away.

Banking and financial institutions need this perhaps more than nearly any other type of online service. Physical vaults aren’t just locked some of the time or only monitored for a few hours out of each day. They are guarded at all times to prevent break-ins. Digital protection works in this same way. Website development and security teams worth their salt provide these exact services, at a high quality, to their customers on a regular basis.

Key #7: Data Center Certifications

Continuing with the theme of constant security support, the seventh key to banking and financial wellness online is SSAE 16 data center auditing. Like banks and financial institutions, data centers also need to comply with industry standards. One of these is the Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements no. 16, otherwise known as SSAE 16. Though primarily a U.S. standard, it largely reflects the International Standard on Assurance Engagements, or ISAE (#3402), as well, so banks can rest assured that they are compliant around the world.

In order to ensure that data centers are operating normally and consistent with industry standards, audits are performed to furnish System and Organization Controls reports, known as SOC. The SOC report is an outside picture of an organization’s data center management at a specified point in time. Some SOC reports augment the information with a sense of how the data control was administered over a longer period of time. In either report, the SSAE 16 auditing of a banking website’s data center(s) provides more structure, security, and overall peace of mind.

Key #8: Encrypted Backups

In the same way that computers need to be backed up in the event of loss or corruption of data, websites ought to be backed up as well. This is the eighth key to protecting financial web platforms: regular and encrypted website backups. It is necessary that these backups not only be done with consistency, but that they also be performed with encryption.

As mentioned earlier, websites need encryption in order to protect them from the prying eyes of hackers and other bad actors. Web platform backups are no less vulnerable to outside threats and therefore also need the same level of security and protection as the underlying website or platform itself. This goes doubly so for websites that deal in financial and other highly sensitive personal information. Ultimately, the more private the data is that’s being stored and accessed, the more important the encryption becomes.

Key #9: Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery

Along these same lines, businesses such as banks and other financial bodies have to prepare for the worst at all times. At any moment, disaster could strike, leaving data either vulnerable or permanently lost. Such an event would be a nightmare for any organization. It goes without saying that banking entities are even more at risk than others as their data is financial in quality. As such, the ninth key is business continuity planning and disaster recovery.

This can be executed in a number of different ways, but their goal is always the same: disaster preparedness. Website development and security teams will likely have their own methods, such as running “fire drills” every ninety days. These can be especially helpful for banking and financial web platform customers and their data centers. In essence, these “fire drills” function in such a way as to simulate a disaster and go through every point on a security and support checklist. The checklist ensures that everything on the severs and website works according to plans that are in place for that particular organization.

Key #10: Redundancy

The tenth and final key to security and support for banking and financial web platforms is redundancy. It is rather fitting that redundancy is the final point because, from a certain perspective, it entails everything that has been mentioned thus far, though it has its own specific needs and requirements. In fact, the primary point regarding redundancy is the load balance for a financial website’s servers.

In general, “load balancing” is an idea very similar to spreading out the weight of a heavy object over several support structures, such as pillars or beams for a roof. For computers and servers, load balancing supports and enhances a website’s ability to function normally and without concern for malfunction or data loss. It achieves this by distributing the workload over several different assets at the same time. In this case, the support structures in question are multiple data centers. In the same way that multiple beams supporting a roof provide more peace of mind that it won’t collapse, load balancing maintains web platforms’ underlying structure and keeps the computers up and running at all times.

In more specific terms, the balancing of a banking website’s load across multiple data centers provides optimized deployment of technological resources. Ideally, banking sites should be load balanced across a range of two to three data centers. With this reinforcement, the website in question can load more quickly than it might otherwise be capable of doing — with less concern for overload and consequent data failure. In this way, redundancy and load balancing are essentially synonymous with reliability, and it is for that reason that redundancy includes everything discussed in these ten keys to financial and banking web security.

Conclusion

Above all else, banking customers expect reliable services from the financial companies in whom they choose to place their trust. In turn, banks expect their data centers to operate smoothly and without hiccups at all times. If a disruption in service occurs, then both the bank and their customers may lose valuable time and resources along the way, irreparably harming the bank-to-customer relationship.

There is nothing more critical to a financial organization than the protection of its sensitive customer data. If moments of data center failure do occur, banks need to know that they have a robust server network and a group of people working tirelessly to get it back up to speed as quickly as possible to ensure minimal downtime for them and their clients.

This is no easy feat, but it can be done with the right team of highly trained specialists and experts in the field of web security for banks and financial institutions. To be sure that a bank has the right systems in place and the proper tools to develop a sustainable web platform, one should have a sense of what it is entailed and whom to contact with questions and concerns.

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