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Demand for ‘next-gen networks’ is on the rise. These networks, which are most commonly built in the cloud, have exploded in popularity during the pandemic, as businesses realise that digitally transforming network infrastructure is imperative to maintaining business growth. The Financial Services (FS) sector, in particular, serves as a perfect example, despite having been more averse to digital transformation efforts in years gone by.

by Luke Armstrong, Enterprise Consultant, Exponential-e

It’s well known that the FS industry has historically had a reputation for holding back on adopting newer technologies. There are always reasons to forgive such behaviour of course, and many have held concerns when it comes to data security and the risks involved in modernising. However, the rise of hybrid working and the introduction of laws to protect it, as well as further laws to offset the limited use of cloud providers, have forced the industry to move past these fears and face network security head-on. In 2022 we can therefore expect many financial institutions to reassess and consider how they can implement a secure infrastructure. This comes as a welcome change in mindset, as conversations around regulation and legislation are crucial for such a high-priced and data-sensitive industry.

Network security for a distributed workforce

Luke Armstrong, Enterprise Consultant, Exponential-e

The FS industry has always relied on third-party cloud services to deliver applications and infrastructure to remote workers. But this has been put under review following recent comments from the Bank of England expressing its concern about the sector’s dependence on a small collection of third-party cloud services, which exposes it to elevated risk and reduces resilience.

When combined with the growing demand for cloud-based ‘next-gen networks’, that helps deliver all manner of information and digital services over one central network, the case for network transformation is now clear. Digitally transforming the network infrastructure to become more open, seamless and optimised is now viewed as crucial to business growth.

However, the rapid decentralisation of workforces has created a perfect environment for bad actors, leading many businesses to quickly scale up their security investments to secure their corporate networks. The challenge now lies in adapting their security policies to cater to a future of distributed working.

How staying secure keeps customers happy

The threat landscape has continued to evolve at breakneck speed for FS firms and businesses alike, as attackers find new ways to innovate and deliver their attacks through a variety of means. In fact, almost three quarters (74%) of financial institutions saw an increase in malicious activity in the first year of the COVID crisis, according to figures from BAE Systems. The same study also revealed that 86% believed the mass move to remote working made their organisations less secure.

If financial firms are to succeed in this hyper-competitive digital age, and more importantly stay compliant with new regulations about to be enforced, they must invest in a security framework that delivers security and reliability, while keeping attackers at bay. These ingredients are critical not just for securing data and systems, but also because they guarantee the highest possible availability of services and systems to customers, which helps build their trust in a brand, and by extension, increase their loyalty.

Simplifying complicated infrastructure for added security

The cloud is fast becoming the most important technology tool to secure, as traditional firms migrate data and applications en masse to private and public cloud environments to better compete with today’s digitally-native fintech challengers. It’s a trend that will only continue too, with banking regulators and advisory firms encouraging banks to make more extensive use of cloud services. But with upcoming regulations coming into force, the FS sector will need to ensure it respects the rules and makes secure networks its number one priority.

Secure access service edge, or SASE, is an additional security layer that many financial services businesses should consider for their cloud infrastructure. SASE brings together security and networking, delivered via a cloud-based service model. It’s vital because it provides secure access to apps and data, as remote users increasingly require access to cloud-based, business-critical applications from anywhere in the world, usually via a SaaS model.

While the technology is not necessarily new, it is becoming more widely used, especially in the remote working age as it combines high-performance connectivity with a robust, centralised cyber security posture, providing control and visibility of the entire cloud infrastructure.

Understanding the power of SASE

SASE is powerful because it incorporates the key features of multiple security services via software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN), including DNS security and firewall policies. It integrates all of this with Zero Trust network security principles to create a single service that is delivered across every aspect of an organisation’s cloud infrastructure.

This frees IT teams from having to manage multiple solutions across several regions, while guaranteeing effective protection from malware, phishing, data loss and malicious insiders, with complete control over how applications are accessed and used on a day-to-day basis. This means that SASE not only economises security but also enhances threat detection and data protection capabilities. These are key aspects to consider for financial institutions looking to secure their networks in a consolidated, simplified manner. Organisations can also benefit from being able to dedicate more of their IT resources to making more effective and efficient use of their data and introducing IT policies that underpin distributed working.

Security infrastructure fit for purpose

Hybrid working is now firmly established, with fully remote working now back on the cards for many thanks to the Omicron variant. When employees are away from the office and on the move, a new approach to connectivity and network security is crucial to facilitate this. Delivering a fast, reliable, and secure network only for customers is no longer sufficient.

Implementing a security infrastructure that is fit for purpose means both customers and employees can access the full range of apps and services available, regardless of their location – so both can realise their goal of making banking an end-to-end, digitally native experience. Doing so will also keep financial institutions at bay from regulators and safe from cybercriminals, leaving them free to conduct operations with greater peace of mind.

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