Last updated at Thu, 30 Nov 2023 19:39:25 GMT

In today's increasingly mobile, fast-paced world, it's no surprise that financial services (finserv) organizations have a massive bullseye on their backs. The amount of personal data they access daily makes them an attractive target for those with malicious intent. In fact, the average cost of a data breach in the financial services sector is $18.9 million, according to data from IBM. With so much at stake, finserv security professionals need to remain vigilant and up-to-date on evolving trends and best practices occurring throughout the sector.

That's where Anthony Johnson comes in. Johnson is a cloud security expert who has experienced almost every facet of cybersecurity. From being a hands-on red team technician to serving as a Global Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) at JP Morgan Chase, Johnson has seen it all.

We caught up with Johnson to get his take on the latest developments in cloudsec and how these developments are being received within the financial services sector.

What unique challenges or pain points did you/do you encounter as a CISO in finserv?

When I think about the challenges I faced as a CISO in this space, all roads lead back to innovation and the need to move quickly. Business units in financial services are generally expected to move at the speed of consumer demand.

And this need to innovate is different from other industries, adding even more pressure. Consumers demand the latest and greatest technology for convenience and ease of use. They place financial institutions under intense pressure to continuously improve. Financial services organizations will always strive for the latest innovation because they need to in order to compete for consumer attention.

How has finserv security evolved over the last few years as it relates to the cloud?

Many financial services organizations have started utilizing the cloud because it allows them to innovate quickly. But another component of cloud adoption, and specifically cloud security, is managing technical debt.

If you think about the myriad of mergers and acquisitions that have happened in the finserv industry over the past few decades, it's easy to see how so many organizations have inherited disparate technologies that aren't fully integrated. There could be some systems that you quite literally cannot turn off without major risk to the entire economy, considering how much financial information flows through those systems on a regular basis. The stakes are high. It's essential that technology upgrades and security advancements be handled with care.

Despite this, there is still a high volume of outdated technology and many legacy systems still operating – although it's worth noting that this is different for post-2010 companies that have built everything to truly be ephemeral.

How would you describe the general maturity level with cloud security?

Financial services organizations have to defend every business practice; they can't just identify one area to go big and win. People want the shiny, new thing that will give them an advantage in the market, so development and innovation have been a high priority over the last year. (See? I mentioned innovation again.)

A major upcoming challenge for finserv organizations and cloud security will be the specific tools they are required to use, and how to leverage them in a way that enables them to still move fast while remaining compliant with industry regulations.

What advice would you give to other CISOs in the finserv industry about cloud security?

I think CISOs in the finserv industry truly need to understand why cloud security is so important. It's not just about remaining compliant — the scale and speed of the cloud is what makes it so great, but also so dangerous. When you have an automated system, what might at first appear to be a minor disruption can quickly compound. And the cloud makes everything way faster. That's why hygiene practices are essential. You need to have your house in order.

The best strategy for this is tight asset management. Most organizations don't actually see their assets expanding. Asset creep is a real problem, especially now. Business users are increasingly technical and can spin up new sets of instances that put the company at risk (think shadow IT). This is quite different from the data centers of the past when unauthorized users weren't even allowed in the building to plug something in. Bottom line: Security teams need visibility.

How can CISOs mitigate these risks with cloud security going forward?

CISOs who are looking to mature their security strategy will want to start by making distinctions between roles of the security leaders. There are some CISOs who have a governance risk background and others who have technical experience. Understanding your unique skill set is a major part of knowing how to approach the role and hire the right staff for your success. And this extends to identifying and using the best platforms, as well.

Your "supporting cast" of security team members can help you gain big-picture visibility into the cloud. Leaning on their expertise can be invaluable, especially considering that many security leaders do a lot of coaching for regulators to keep them educated in the constant evolution of cloud security. Similar to the need for innovation, it's worth noting that this need for security knowledge in financial services also differs greatly from the expectations of leaders within retail, hospitality, or manufacturing industries. For example, in those industries, they don't need to train a regulator on how autoscaling is applicable to cyberspace.

There's a different expectation in financial services and leaders in this industry need to be aware of that when strategizing growth.

What are your predictions for the future of cloud security?

Right now, organizations in financial services are facing the challenge of having too many tools. Having a larger security budget than other sectors usually means you get one of everything; it's a real mixed blessing. Finserv has been driving a big integration story about how the tools really work together, so I anticipate we'll see more large security vendors starting to shift to an integrated approach.

Another trend that's unique to this industry is the fact that financial services also have investment arms, and we're seeing these shift the strategy of security leaders, as well. Basically, when a financial services organization invests in a product, it tends to have a trickle-down effect, and the IT security team can find themselves being asked to adopt those new technologies. I think we'll see more of this over the next year, and IT security teams are going to need to determine how to best implement new solutions in a seamless and effective way.

Security and cloud leaders in financial services need to watch for true innovation in the space and examine how competitors are embracing digital transformation. What does it look like, and what could it mean for you?

Let's navigate the future of cloud security for finserv together. Learn more here.

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