Mr Venkatesh is an international banker and Senior Risk Management executive spanning over three decades of astute business accumen. Seasoned enterprise risk management executive with strong foothold in Strategy, Credit, Market and Operational Risk along with Enterprise Risk Management. He brings to the table a high degree of emotional maturity and business intelligence. Keynote Speaker and a vivid writer on various Risk subject areas in International Risk Forums, a “C-Suite” leadership coach and mentor with accomplished experience across Banking, and Financial Services.
MR Venkatesh Kallur will be speaking virtually at Finnosec ME Virtual Summit. Please have a look at his view on our upcoming The Leading Summit on Financial Security and Cyber Resilience held Virtually on 17- 18 March 2021 ( Attend from anywhere)
Q- As Cyber threats has evolved rapidly, can you describe how this currently challenges the era of digital banking?
As Banking industry is moving into digitization and taking the banking transactions into the hands of our customers, the cyber threats are increasing, as a result ethical hacking is a job by itself within Information Security, whose job is day in and day out, hack our own infrastructure and fix the weaknesses. Banks need to invest heavily within the information security domain in order to successfully enter and embrace the era of digital banking. Certainly, digital banking provides several cost savings along with time to market for customers.
Q- What are the roles of different stakeholders like regulators solution providers and financial institution in steering up the regions readiness in becoming an overall secure economy?
Handling the cyber security and come up with forward looking regulations and guidelines with respect to information security and accordingly the financial institutions will fall in line, as per regulator’s guidelines and industry best practices. The solution providers have a big role to play as they have a bird’s eye view of global and International practices and accordingly, they should also take the lead and bring such sophisticated frameworks into the region through awareness sessions and active campaign management.
Q- Can you highlight how some the role different stakeholders like regulators solution providers and financial institution play is slowing down the pace of the regions readiness in becoming a secure economy?
As I said before, there is nothing like a secured economy. If things elicited in the above question are not embraced in a holistic manner by regulators, solution providers and financial institutions the regions readiness to effectively handle information security threats becomes a long dream rather than reality. Having said this, I see a lot of traction in the region be it from regulators, solution providers or banking institutions. This momentum needs to be maintained in order to create a reasonably secured economy factoring in “Risk vs. Reward”.
Q- Speaking of post-COVID, what steps should be taken by banks to build up against cyber threats? Who should be more proactive and what is at stake if this is not enforced?
The only positive outcome of COVID-19 is, it has taught the marketplace businesses can be run remotely through “Management by Objective” framework. As remote working, Working from Home (WFH) became the new norm of the business model in the region, it should extend this practice beyond COVID-19 and use effectively to bring down the operational expenses like utilities, real estate rentals, contribute to the greener world by reducing the vehicle pollution, improve the traffic congestion in the cities, etc. As more and more employees and institutions are going to work remotely, this puts additional pressure on IT infrastructure in terms of several Information Security risks that emanate, as hackers would like to use this to their advantage. In the past I have witnessed in North America enormous number of investments in the security (both physical and IT), post 9/11. Similarly, post COVID-19 will unleash several investments in the information security domain, due to several vulnerabilities in the infrastructure clubbed with proactive new regulations from regulators and industry best practices, organizations need to tighten their belts and make judicious investments. The stakes are high for financial industry to the extent, it can wipe out the balance sheet, if IT infrastructure is not robust with regular testing for vulnerabilities, DDOS attacks along with Phishing and spoofing attacks.
Q- What active steps would you take within your organisation towards building up a Cyber Resilient and Digitally Empowered Economy?
I have taken several initiatives within ISO area, in terms of increasing the headcount to tackle the new workload and new threats, enhance the infrastructure. Increase the SIEM and SOC infrastructure. Make sure, ISO and Operational Risk is inherent part of all new projects, so that at the project stage itself cover all the potential risks the organization may face due to the launch of new initiatives. We even started actively monitoring all senior executives of the Bank for Phishing and Spoofing attacks. Further, the following steps are implemented in my organization to create cyber resilience and a digitally empowered economy:
- We have a proactive and systematic process for managing standard systems hygiene: These are the normal business as usual processes such as vulnerability detection, system security patching, having the latest antivirus signatures and running an identity management system etc.
- A cross functional team is available with Senior Management to plan for cyber security events and consider hypothetical attacks: This is part of our incident management process and is crucial for identifying threats based on theoretical scenarios.
- Cyber patterns and attack modes are studied to develop a tailored approach to protecting the Bank’s assets: Each organization in the BFSI sector has its own unique infrastructure and processes. Having a customized security approach for your organization will maximize the protection of your assets and reduce the risk of a data breach or denial of services.
- Mitigating risks by investing time, resources and money to protect assets at a higher risk: Depending on the risk assessment being done. Sometimes investing in mitigating risks will cost much less than accepting the risk. A cost benefit analysis is important here. It is however mandatory to mitigate risks relating to customer information.
- Cyber insurance: We renew our cyber insurance policy on a yearly basis. Transferring the risk of a financial loss due to cyber-attacks is very important as this effects on our P&L will be much less than taking the burden of the whole loss. I always push all organizations in the BFSI sector to purchase the best cyber insurance available in the market.
Q- What proactive steps can stakeholders within the BFSI sector do to stay ahead when handling cyber security threats in the digital age?
Having a security mindset is the first step in managing cyber security. The following proactive steps should be taken in the BFSI sector when handling cyber threats:
- Threat hunting: This puts the organization on the offensive. Once cyber threats are identified, defensive and preventative controls can be put into place to make an attack difficult or impossible. Examples of threat hunting include identifying impersonating websites, sources of denial-of-service attacks and blocking of any indicators of compromise as reported by threat intelligence feeds.
- Ethical hacking: This type of hacking performs actual attacks with the intention to help identify a network’s weaknesses by exposing them. These “white hat” hackers use a variety of methods, such as social engineering and utilizing their own hacking software. Once the weaknesses are identified, they are mitigated so that if an actual attack happens, these weaknesses cannot be exploited.
- Proactive network and endpoint monitoring: Variety of tools can be used here. A Security Information and Events Management system is the basis of proactive network monitoring. For the BFSI sector, the network must be monitored 24/7. Endpoint monitoring is another important component of this strategy. This involves monitoring the security of remote devices with access to business accounts, such as smartphones, tablets, desktop computers, laptops, and servers. Endpoints are often the easiest way for a hacker to gain access to your network.
- Training and awareness: Almost 90% of cyber-attacks are caused by human error or behaviour. All members of your staff, not just your IT department, should therefore be trained in security precautions. Everyone at the BFSI sector needs to be taught how to create strong passwords, report and delete suspicious emails, use a VPN if they need to access company data on a personal phone, and more.
Q- Share any advice you would you like to share with your industry peers and banking professionals who are looking forward to attending this conference?
When it comes to cyber security and digital transformation, it is vital to be one step ahead of cyber attackers and their threats. To achieve this, having strict security governance for all organizations in the BFSI sector is important. Creating security governance is achieved by having an Information Security Program that covers polices, standard operating procedures, guidelines, risk management, security awareness and having the appropriate cyber tools in place to mitigate the risks identified. Last but most important, staff your ISO with right bandwidth and talent.
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