16 Apr 2021
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Cybercriminals influencing financial markets, report finds

By Shannon Williams

While 2021 could be a pivotal year for FSIs in Asia Pacific as digital banking and fintech continue to accelerate, cybercriminals are still focused on an important goal – to ‘chase the money’ – and they are becoming more hostile. 

That's according to new research from the VMware Security Business Unit, which has released the findings from its  fourth annual edition Modern Bank Heists 4.0 report.

In the report, 126 CISOs and security leaders reveal their thoughts on the evolving cybersecurity threats facing financial institutions in 2021.

The report takes the pulse of some of the industry’s top security leaders, and the findings serve to provide a ground truth on the evolution of cybercrime cartels and the defensive shift of the financial sector.

The report says the financial sector is being targeted by cybercrime cartels and nation-states, and the bank heist has evolved significantly — from a heist to a hostage situation.

The financial sector has seen a 118% increase in destructive attacks, and 38% of financial institutions encountered island hopping attacks – which has emerged as the primary mode of attack in 2021. 

The research found more than half(51%) of financial institutions experienced attacks targeting market strategies – which is essentially, economic espionage, according to VMware,.

According to the report, increased geopolitical tension is triggering destructive attacks. 

There has been a 118% increase in destructive attacks as the world sees geopolitical tension play out in cyberspace. Cybercriminals are also starting to “burn the evidence” after a successful attack, the report reveals.

Attacks have evolved significantly from heists to hostages.

According to the research, 38% of financial institutions encountered island hopping - when an organisation’s information supply chain is commandeered to attack the institution from within its “trusted” supply chain. This is a 13% increase from 2020. 

Economic espionage + the digitisation of insider trading was also a key theme uncovered by the research.

More than half (51%) of financial institutions experienced attacks targeting market strategies. This is economic espionage -- the digitisation of insider trading and front-running the market. 

Another key theme from the report showed cybercriminals are influencing financial markets.

Forty one percent of financial institutions experienced an increase in brokerage account takeovers, meaning they can gather intel and make financial bets that give them the capability to massively influence markets. 

And finally, the research found wire transfer fraud is the new digital bank robbery.

The report found 57% of financial institutions saw an increase in wire transfer fraud. Whether through MiTM, malicious insiders or phishing, attackers are committing wire transfer fraud because it’s hard to follow the money trail once complete, Vmware says.

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