SEC Issues New Cyber Risk Alert to Financial Firms

Financial firms have a bigger target on their backs at the moment, according to a new risk alert issued July 10, 2020 by the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE).  This new risk alert on ransomware cautions investment advisers, broker-dealers, and investment companies that OCIE has recently observed a marked increase in cyberattacks targeting SEC registrants and the service providers to such registrants. The ransomware usually infiltrates firm networks through phishing, and OCIE highlights that through its coordination with federal, state, and local authorities investigating incidents, the level of sophistication of these recent cyberattacks has increased. The current risk alert follows on the heels of another ransomware risk alert issued by OCIE in 2017 when the WannaCry ransomware was causing widespread disruption to financial firms.

In particular, OCIE warns registrants about new variants of the Dridex ransomware currently being used by hackers, which was previously noted by the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) at the end of June. This malware is dangerous because it has the ability to detect when users visit financial websites and install keyloggers and capture screenshots (which may include account numbers), in addition to the usual ransomware functionality of locking files to hold for ransom and deleting files.

One large registrant disclosed last week that it suffered a cybersecurity attack, a sign that these attacks aren’t just theoretical.

The good news for financial firms is that OCIE notes several practices to strengthen operational resiliency, including ways to enhance incident response plans and business continuity procedures, security awareness training programs such as conducting phishing testing for staff, and the importance of regular vulnerability scanning and network perimeter testing.

CSS is pleased to be at the forefront of helping clients manage their cybersecurity risks through services including phishing testing, security awareness training, vulnerability scanning, penetration testing, dark web monitoring for compromised credentials and drafting of incident response plans and BCPs. Please contact us at to inquire about how we can help make your firm stronger in protecting your data and that of your clients.

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