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Security Spending and Preparedness in the Financial Services Sector: SANS Survey

Insider Threats Cause Breaches; Avoiding Breaches Replaces Compliance as Key Driver to Security Efforts; Security Budgets to Increase

  • Bethesda, MD
  • June 18, 2015

Financial services organizations are still being breached too often, most frequently by those with insider access, according to the second annual SANS survey on the security of the financial services sector.

In it, 46% cited abuse or misuse by internal employees or contractors and 42% cited successful spearphishing attacks as being their most prevalent causes of breaches.

"One of the biggest security problems we're seeing is bad user behavior," says SANS instructor and financial systems security expert G. Mark Hardy. "As a result of their inability to contain user mistakes, financial services companies are learning that compliance doesn't translate to security and are shifting their top priority from compliance to avoiding data breaches."

In 2015, avoiding breaches was chosen by 81% of respondents, making it the top driver for information security programs. In 2014, the top driver was meeting compliance. This year, compliance is respondents' second most important driver, while their third top driver is to improve their security and risk management programs overall.

"This shift toward better detection and improved programs indicates growing maturity in cyber risk operations, which should be the ultimate goal for all IT organizations," says Hardy. "It is also important to put some structure to that maturity and implement the Critical Security Controls and other risk-reduction frameworks."

This shift toward stopping breaches and improving programs was further demonstrated by a trend to spend more on information security. Although one-third could not quantify their IT security budgets, 41% of those who could were planning to spend 9% or more of their IT budgets on security in FY 2015 compared to 35% making that commitment in FY 2014. Moreover, 58% said they plan to invest more heavily in IT-related security and risk management in the next 24 months.

Adds Hardy, "Increased emphasis on avoiding breaches and improving overall risk posture, coupled with increasing security budgets, bode well for improved security in the financial services sector."

Full results will be shared during a webcast on June 23, 2015, at 1 PM EDT, sponsored by AlienVault, Arbor Networks, LogRhythm, and VSS Monitoring, and hosted by SANS.

Register to attend the webcast at

Those who register for the webcast will also receive access to the published results paper developed by renowned technology journalist Jaikumar Vijayan in consultation with SANS Analyst and security expert, G. Mark Hardy.

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