Rustin Brown|June 4, 2024

Banking on Zero Trust: How ZTNA Shields Financial Institutions from Escalating Cyberthreats

It’s no surprise that the financial sector continues to be in threat actor crosshairs. As traditional measures like VPNs and firewalls falter, the banking industry is bolstering defenses to safeguard sensitive data and ensure consistent secure access for employees, third parties and customers with Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA).

Statistics on bank cyberattacks reveal a major increase in frequency and severity. For instance, the data shows a significant rise in incidents targeting financial institutions. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported statistics indicate that cyberattacks on financial institutions have more than doubled since 2020, with U.S. financial firms, including banks, accounting for nearly one-fifth of all cyberattacks. Additionally, rising financial institution losses have more than quadrupled since 2017, reaching $2.5 billion including direct financial losses, reputational damage and expenses related to security upgrades​.

If that’s not enough, JPMorgan Chase, one of the world’s largest banks, stated in early 2024 that it stops about 45 BILLION cyberattack attempts PER DAY. And a highly publicized Bank of America data breach was due to a cyberattack on a third-party provider that exposed sensitive information of over 57,000 Bank of America customers, highlighting growing attempts to steal information that could ultimately be used in ransomware demands.

These cyberattacks on bank statistics illustrate mounting challenges for bank cybersecurity and underscore why leading institutions like Goldman Sachs, Capital One and yes, JPMorgan Chase are deploying Zero Trust security and Zero Trust access frameworks to bolster their banking cybersecurity frameworks, regulatory compliance and support for remote work and digital transformation.

Never trust, always verify: ZTNA’s critical role in banking cybersecurity

But what makes Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) so exceptionally suited as a deterrent against cyberattacks on banks? ZTNA's core principles align perfectly with the industry's stringent regulations and abundant need to protect sensitive data of customers and the financial institutions themselves. The strategic infusion of ZTNA into banking security stacks not only thwarts data breaches but also ensures a secure, frictionless digital experience for customers.

ZTNA is essential in modern cybersecurity strategies, especially in contexts where traditional VPNs are less effective against evolving threats. Unlike conventional security models that operate on implicit trust, ZTNA strictly adheres to "never trust, always verify" principles, ensuring rigorous authentication and continuous validation of all entities, whether inside or outside the bank’s network.

While traditional cybersecurity solutions were built to protect a bank’s network perimeter, ZTNA shifts this paradigm by obfuscating and segmenting internal and external access to the network. This method of micro-segmentation ensures that each access point and its subsequent interactions are authenticated and verified, thereby minimizing the attack surface and enhancing the overall security posture of an organization.

Why financial institutions need to embrace ZTNA

Financial institutions manage vast amounts of sensitive data, making them prime threat actor targets. Antiquated "trust-but-verify" secure access solutions like risky VPNs can no longer protect against the escalating sophistication of modern banking cyberthreats. ZTNA provides a strategic advantage by enforcing strict access controls and continuous verification of all users and devices, regardless of their location, including third-party vendors. By adopting ZTNA, financial institutions can ensure that all connections are encrypted and authenticated, significantly reducing the likelihood of unauthorized access and data breaches. Furthermore, ZTNA allows for detailed audits and real-time monitoring, enhancing the ability to identify and respond to potential cybersecurity threats promptly.

Adopting ZTNA not only strengthens security but also aligns with increasing regulatory demands across the global financial sector. Regulations such as the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act in the U.S. and the Digital Operational Resilience Act (DORA) in the EU emphasize the need for a stringent banking cybersecurity framework. ZTNA helps institutions meet these requirements by providing enhanced data protection and streamlined compliance reporting. In addition, banks must comply with stringent regulations like GDPR, PCI-DSS, and others that mandate robust data protection measures. ZTNA helps ensure that only authorized users can access sensitive information. So, as regulatory landscapes evolve, the flexibility and adaptability of ZTNA makes it an invaluable tool in maintaining compliance and protecting against financial and reputational damage from data breaches.

Shaping the Future of Banking Cybersecurity with ZTNA

ZTNA is increasingly recognized as a critical component of modern banking cybersecurity strategies, offering significant advantages to protect access across complex network environments like those of financial institutions. And as banks increasingly adopt cloud services, ZTNA offers a unified security approach that works seamlessly across on-premises and cloud environments, ensuring consistent security policies and controls. As one of the most secure banking solutions, ZTNA also reduces network security management complexity with a centralized platform to streamline the implementation and enforcement of security policies.

The evolving threat landscape is driving banking organizations toward ZTNA, as more institutions recognize its role as a critical safeguard against the potentially catastrophic losses associated with banking cyberattacks. ZTNA minimizes potential lateral movement within networks by managing access on a per-user and per-session basis, thereby reducing the overall attack surface. This approach is crucial for banks as it provides robust defense by rigorously authenticating and continuously verifying each access request.

Implementing ZTNA is a strategic upgrade, vital for future-proofing financial institution cybersecurity strategies. Looking ahead, ZTNA's integration with emerging technologies sets a new benchmark for banking security, ensuring operational resilience and regulatory compliance. Its adaptability and scalability to future technology advancements make it an indispensable cybersecurity tool for protecting the financial sector against ever-evolving threats, thereby enhancing cyber resilience.

Appgate SDP: A leading ZTNA solution for banking cybersecurity

Appgate SDP, a comprehensive universal ZTNA solution, strengthens security and transforms financial institution networks with flexibility, extensibility and integration advantages. It can be configured to meet exacting security and compliance requirements for bank cybersecurity regardless of network topology or complexity and is built on six core design tenets:

  • Cloaked infrastructure: A sophisticated form of single packet authorization (SPA) makes your network invisible so hackers can't attack what they can’t see.
  • Attribute-based access control: Identity-centric security that adapts access based on user, device, application and contextual risk, building a multi-dimensional identity profile before access is granted.
  • Least privilege access: Just-in-time, session-based micro firewalls using multi-tunneling technology to microsegment users, workloads, and resources and limit lateral movement inside the network.
  • Dynamic and continuous: Dynamic live entitlements automatically modify access in near-real time based on context and risk, so security threats are automatically blocked.
  • Flexible and agile: Extensible, 100% API-first technology enhances and integrates with a bank’s technology stack to build security into business processes and workflows.
  • Performant and scalable: Stateless and distributed architecture allows for nearly limitless horizontal scale and performance.
Universal ZTNA - Banking Cybersecurity - Financial Services Cybersecurity - Zero Trust Network Access

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Additional ZTNA resources

White paper: An ROI Analysis on Universal ZTNA
Blog: Making the Case for Universal Zero Trust Network Access
eBook: What’s the Difference Between Cloud-routed vs. Direct-routed ZTNA
Analyst report: 2023 Nemertes Real Economic Value of Appgate SDP

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