Protect your institution with financial data security

by Denise Stalcup, Global Enterprise Solutions Specialist, AT&T Business

When a banking customer chooses their financial institution, they’re looking for a number of things. These can include the types of accounts offered, mobile and online access to their accounts, how and when fees are assessed, rates, and the quality of customer service, to name a few. Also top of mind is how secure their money and personal information is.  Delivering this peace of mind to their customers is a priority for all financial institutions.

Financial institutions—credit unions, brokerage firms, and mortgage lenders—arguably manage more sensitive personal information (SPI) that can devastate a life if mishandled, more than any other industry. They all must ensure effective and reliable financial data security is in place. A security breach in one financial institution might be the golden key to unlock access to others, taking down the customer and other businesses as well. The purpose of effective financial data security is to prevent that from happening.

Data security in the financial sector industry: What does it mean?

Many consumers rely on their mobile devices to pay for purchases online and in-person. The proliferation of devices that connect to networks and the cloud for these transactions means there are more potential security gaps that need to be covered to prevent breaches.

The result is that financial services is one of the most heavily regulated industries. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) are just two of the important industry standards financial services must meet.

Effective financial data security means staying on top of these standards along with the business-as-usual cyber protections that all companies must carry. But more vendors and resources don’t necessarily equate to better protection. There can be overlaps or redundancies in coverage. These overlaps not only mean more agreements and updates to support, but they could create conflicts with one another.

Simplicity is the key to avoid this, which is why network modernization—the process of migration from legacy networks to fiber—is needed for a more stable and secure foundation, thereby minimizing the number of separate applications needed. Financial institutions also must have the flexibility to manage redundancies in the security infrastructure. Doing so enables them to address security conflicts.

Cyber threats impacting the financial institutions

There are many ways for cybercrime to enter a banking institution. Let’s look at some of the common ways cyber criminals exploit financial data security gaps.

“Bad bots”

In banking, customers increasingly rely on open banking—using third-party APIs to securely access applications. This delivers an extended or enhanced experience to customers. The downside is that it opens the door to “bad bots.” Their purpose is to steal user information, unleash distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, and wreak other havoc.


In this type of attack, fraudulent emails, text messages, or phone calls are used to trick employees into revealing sensitive information or downloading malicious software. They can also take advantage of customers by creating fake login pages to trick victims into providing sensitive information that can be used for identity theft or financial fraud. The 2023 AT&T Cybersecurity Insights Edge report found that 52% of financial institutions are combining their cybersecurity and networking functions into the cloud to help prevent phishing.


Another common tactic is malware, which is a type of software designed to infiltrate, damage, or perform unwanted actions on a computer system, network, or user device without the owner's consent. These malicious programs can steal sensitive information, disrupt system operations, provide unauthorized access to the target system, and even exploit resources for illegal activities.


Ransomware is the most common form of malware. Once inside the network, cybercriminals hold the business hostage by threatening to destroy data or business operations until they receive a ransom. Ransomware costs U.S. financial institutions over $1.2 billion in costs in 2021, a nearly 200% increase over the previous year.1

Data Breaches

Within the business itself, it's imperative that procedures are in place to prevent data breaches, identity theft, and monetary loss. Data breaches alone—unauthorized access to sensitive customer information, such as Social Security numbers, bank account details, and credit card numbers—can result in identity theft and financial fraud. The average costs of a data breach in the financial sector is over $5M in 2021.2

To mitigate these risks, financial institutions need to invest in robust cybersecurity programs, employee training, and continuous monitoring of their systems.

Challenges managing cyber threats and solutions for financial data security

The biggest challenge in managing cyber threats is staying ahead of criminal innovation. With so many ways to get into the network—whether it be through the customer’s activities or the financial institution itself—it can feel like a game of roulette where the favor is with the bad actors.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Having a robust security infrastructure is the key and today, that security needs to start with the network itself. This becomes more difficult if the network of the financial institution is aging or already outdated. Even if a network upgrade seems unnecessary, it enables a business to gain access to the speed, bandwidth, low latency, and security so advanced security solutions and productivity-boosting emerging tech can be adopted.

Another challenge is that some financial institutions haven’t fully embraced cloud adoption. The institution is limited to the bandwidth they have within their network.3 This can then limit service options and mean slower server response times. It may also jeopardize the business’s ability to identify and respond to fraud. It’s like pushing a boulder uphill because it requires more work, and expense, to deliver the security and service customers need for financial data security.

The solution is to increase the adoption of cloud services—applications, tools, processes—to improve the speed and responsiveness of data access and the customer experience. But for this, you need cloud connectivity, which is based in a fiber network. See a pattern developing here?

When paired with a reliable, secure network, cloud solutions can significantly help with data security and managing cyber threats for financial industries in several ways. Reputable providers often have dedicated teams that ensure their services follow industry-specific requirements like PCI DSS. This can help financial institutions support compliance more easily.

Cloud solutions are scalable and flexible and make it easier to deploy security patches. The result is that the business can implement cloud services where they make the most sense and better control spending. In other words, they can help financial institutions save money.

If a breach occurs, the response speed of your team to shut down or alienate the threat is your first priority. Slower response, more damage. Keep in mind that the breach can be due to anything ranging from a clicked link in an email to a customer traveling across the world and having their device hacked.

How to improve your financial data security and protect your customers

Yes, financial data security is a big concern for industry leaders. They want to protect their customers, business, and the company’s reputation. They also want to do this efficiently, effectively, and as affordably as possible. No surprise there. Still, it can be overwhelming. What are the first steps to moving forward from problems and challenges into financial data solutions that fit?

  1. Evaluate your networkIdentify any financial data security gaps are and make sure the right networking services are in place unique to the business.
  2. Consult with a third-party security expert. Be sure to choose a company that understands financial services and can help you identify security gaps and build a security plan.
  3. Assume Zero Trust for all activity. A breach can come from even the most trusted source. Zero Trust assumes that all activity is a potential threat unless proven otherwise.
  4. Act quickly but with a plan in mind. Every moment without adequate data protection is a lifetime of opportunity for cybercrime. Get the basics in place and prepare to move forward.
  5. Educate and communicate. Security risks and best practices with your employees, third-party vendors, and your customers.
  6. Stay up-to-date. Stay on top of application and tool updates to ensure security patches are up-to-date.

By implementing these measures, your business can significantly reduce the risk of cyber threats and safeguard your network, customer information, and reputation. We’re here to help you do that.

AT&T Business provides a new standard for networking for financial institutions by offering:

  • Reliable fiber and 5G solutions with next gen technology and nationwide coverage.
  • Security that start at the network through AT&T Business Fiber and AT&T 5G
  • Experts who know business and have been connecting and growing businesses for nearly 150 years

AT&T Cybersecurity for Finance is changing the way financial institutions improve financial data security by engaging security advisors to help reduce fraud and secure financial transactions. As the number of connected devices goes up, AT&T offers a host of advanced security solutions that can help the risk of a cyber-disaster go down, enabling financial institutions to better embrace change and elevate trust. 

Why AT&T Business

See how ultra-fast, reliable fiber and 5G connectivity protected by built-in security give you a new level of confidence in the possibilities of your network. Let our experts work with you to solve your challenges and accelerate outcomes. Your business deserves the AT&T Business difference—a new standard for networking.

Learn more about AT&T Business financial services IT solutions or contact your AT&T Business representative to connect with an expert who knows business.

1AJ Vicens, “Ransomware costs top $1 billion as White House inks new threat-sharing initiative,” Cyberscoop, November 1, 2022,

2Monica Hovsepian, “For Financial Institutions, Cyber Threats Loom Large,” Forbes, March 9, 2022,

3Lannah Nguyen, “Bank Tiptoe Toward Their Cloud-Based Future,” New York Times, June 3, 2022,