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Data is the heartbeat of 21st-century financial services. Indeed, McKinsey estimates the annual potential value of artificial intelligence within banking to be between $200 – $300 billion. However, the data that this artificial intelligence so readily collects can be dangerous in the wrong hands. So how can financial institutions safeguard their crucial data, build trust with consumers, and build a profitable, prosperous future?

By embracing information security and championing compliance. 

Let’s examine the main information security and compliance-related challenges that operators within the financial services industry face. We’ll explore potential workaround solutions before signposting five brilliant resources to help ensure that both your financial institution and your third-party vendors keep your customers as risk-free as possible. 

What is information security?

First things first, let’s clarify something—information security and cybersecurity, while linked, aren’t the same. Information security refers to keeping all important information secure. This includes both physical and digital data: your customers’ personally identifiable information (PII) stored on your cloud-based server and confidential documents stored in a safe within your office. 

According to CSO, however, the term cybersecurity refers exclusively to “the broader practice of defending IT assets from attack”. Therefore, information security is the overarching umbrella term for general data security—while cybersecurity is the more specific term for IT-related security. 

Information security can be divided into five main areas:

Legal measures

  • Regulations
  • Directives

Technical measures

  • Specific hardware, software, and firewalls, etc.
  • Password policies
  • Vulnerability scanning
  • Blacklisting

Organisational measures

  • Creation of internal departments
  • Access control policies
  • Incident management procedures

Human measures

  • Training
  • Well-defined employee responsibilities

Physical measures

  • Controlling access to a financial institution/its data centres

Information security and compliance challenges when it comes to collections

Modern collections strategies revolve around personalised approaches tailored to each individual customer. As such, 21st-century debt collectors require a wealth of data when it comes to their past-due customers. This might include:

  • Personally identifiable information (full name, address, telephone number, etc.)
  • Financial accounts 
  • Transactions 
  • Social network interactions 
  • Communication preferences
  • Repayment habits

Of course, there are innumerable challenges involved with keeping this data secure and remaining compliant. Let’s explore a few of these in more detail and outline potential solutions to consider.

GDPR Compliance

With GDPR fines of up to €20 million (or 4% of all annual turnover if this is greater than €20 million), you can’t afford to fall foul of GDPR. So how can you ensure that you remain compliant and protect your financial institution’s key data?

  • Appoint an internal data protection officer
  • Create a detailed cookie policy
  • Update the language in your privacy policy
  • Update your cookie consent banner (and make sure it has an opt-out button)
  • Create a detailed record of all data processing flows
  • Ensure your third-party vendors are also compliant (if applicable)
  • Encrypt existing data via anonymisation or pseudonymisation and delete all unnecessary data

Cybersecurity on the cloud

Whether it’s Gmail, iCloud, or YouTube, the cloud is all around us. Despite this, 92% of C-Suite execs have stated that they feel customer data stored in the cloud is vulnerable to attack. There are a wide variety of potential ways in which collections data can come under attack: data breaches, misconfiguration or inadequate change control, a subpar cloud security architecture, poor access and credential management, or account hijacking.

When it comes to solutions, bear in mind that cybercriminals are developing new strategies each and every day—so there’s no failsafe method of securing your data on the cloud. That being said, make sure to follow these steps and you’ll be well on your way to ensuring ongoing information security:

  • Regularly test for security vulnerabilities
  • Have a security response plan
  • Create a detailed security checklist
  • Follow a secure development lifecycle when rolling out any new products

Human error

The Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) estimates that 83% of all GDPR-related data breaches can be attributed to human error. You can have multi-factor authentication, precise security response plans, and the most technologically-advanced safe on the planet, but if somebody makes a crucial mistake—whether that’s viewing sensitive information on a public network or leaving the key in the safe—then it’s all for nothing. Likewise, when it comes to detailed regulations like GDPR, employees might feel like they’re doing the right thing but be unaware as to the specific rules and regulations. 

The solution here is simple: education.

  • Conduct regular training on information security, cybersecurity, and compliance.
  • Mandate quizzes to ascertain employees’ levels of knowledge—don’t just schedule these for after the training sessions, but check back in later to ensure that what’s learned hasn’t simply been forgotten.

Five must-know resources to help you maintain information security and compliance

It takes daily, ongoing effort to achieve information security and compliance. To help you identify potential areas for improvement within your own bank or lending institution, we’ve listed five of the best free resources currently available. 

Springboard provides forty hours’ worth of free content across nine modules. In other words, it’s the perfect primer for all information security and compliance matters. Whether you’re an industry veteran or you barely know the difference between the cloud and the internet, this free course will ensure that you’re well equipped with all the need-to-know basics. 

Unsurprisingly, the best source of information on any given topic is usually the original source itself. With GDPR mandatory for European companies of all shapes and sizes, it pays dividends to understand the regulation itself in great detail. However, be warned: this is far from a light reading.

ENISA—the European agency for cybersecurity—regularly publishes a wide range of content. These reports and articles detail the latest European cybersecurity recommendations and frameworks, so the insights they provide are invaluable. Moreover, they have their own Cybersecurity Higher Education database to help address the cybersecurity skill shortage, as well as specific Network and Information Security (NIS) quizzes.

The European Cyber Security Organisation is a Belgian-based non-profit organisation whose members include large companies, SMEs, research centres, universities, end-users, local, regional and national administrations, and more. With regular press releases, news stories, detailed white-papers and webinars, the ECSO is a fantastic free resource.

Last but not least, it’s well worth checking out Cybersecurity Europe. Its critical intelligence and future-proofed insights help financial institutions effectively safeguard their data going forward (while remaining compliant).

Secure your financial institution’s future, today

Information security and compliance are among the biggest challenges that modern financial institutions face. Take a deep dive into the 5 free information security and compliance resources listed above and stay in control of your data. Moreover, don’t forget to ask your third-party vendors about their approaches to information security—this is crucial in ensuring that substandard external procedures don’t affect your own institution. 

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