Malware continues to present threat to banks

Banking workstations and online services have been targeted extensively by hackers  in recent months.

Cybercrime is increasingly capturing the attention of business leaders among numerous industries. There may have once been a time when establishing robust network and data security protocols was solely left up to IT teams, but the ramifications of a poorly executed plan have become too severe for C-suite officers to ignore. The costs associated with a malware attack, including the loss of sensitive company information, threat removal fees and cybersecurity regulation fines, have grown to the point that hackers are an enterprise-wide concern.

Banks and other financial institutions have been some of the more frequently targeted victims of cybercrime. Their appeal to hackers is evident, as the vast quantities of account numbers and other financial records stored on their servers could be easily leveraged for profit. These entities will likely continue to be a favorite target, particularly as more customers engage in online banking. Although being able to access one's account information at any time from a computer or mobile device may provide a large degree of convenience, the service presents a number of data security challenges as it opens up new potential entry points for hackers to access bank servers and sensitive financial information.

Online services targeted
According to a recent global malware threat assessment, hackers are beginning to launch more attacks targeted at online banking services. Researchers found that malware designed to exploit vulnerabilities in these networks increased 29 percent over the previous quarter, with the number of identified infections rising from 113,000 to 146,000. Institutions within the United States reported more instances of malware infection than any other nation, comprising 28 percent of all online banking breaches in the world.

News of the rise of online banking breaches coincides with the release of a report on the increasing threat posed by mobile malware. One of the most prevalent strains spotted across today's cyber landscape is the ZitMo Trojan. ZitMo is the mobile version of the popular Zeus Trojan, a malicious program specifically designed to target bank servers. ZitMo often presents itself to users as a security app, but once it has been downloaded and launched, it will begin receiving instructions from its command and control server. One of its primary functions is to forward the victim's incoming SMS messages to the hacker's C&C server. If the user then attempts to engage his or her bank's online services or receive account information through text messages, ZitMo will automatically send that data, including mobile Transaction Authentication Numbers, to the attacker.

Bank breach reported
Several banks have had their systems breached by cybercriminals in recent months. For instance, a New Hampshire credit union discovered in July that several of its workstations had been infected by malware. Officials with the financial institution were forced to notify its more than 115,000 account holders of the potential threat to their financial security. Credit union executives noted that they have not received any reports of unusual account activity from their customers, but they will be offering one year of complimentary credit monitoring and identity theft protection services to anyone affected by the breach.

Because of the scope and variety of malware threats in existence today, banking institutions need to take great pains to establish a comprehensive cybersecurity defensive front. Although they may not be able to control the level of security on their customers' mobile devices, bank executives can still shore up their end point defenses. A system restore and recovery utility can provide a great deal of protection for any networked environment containing numerous workstations. By establishing an automated recovery process after each user session, administrators can ensure that any viruses or other malware that have infected a machine will be promptly removed when it the system is restored to its optimal settings.

Scott Cornell

When he’s not knee deep in blogging and all things tech, Scott spends his free time playing ultimate Frisbee and watching foreign films. An expert in emerging tech trends, Scott always has his ear to ground for breaking news related to IT security.