Money in the Bank
Protecting financial Institutions through cyber resilient physical security
- By David Uberig
- Dec 01, 2021
We have all read or heard about incidents of cyber crime targeting government and commercial entities to compromise services or harvest information. As you can image, financial institutions are a primary target for attack.
While they have top-notch security, financial institutions may be still be the target of threats involving software and hardware vulnerabilities that could lead to exploitation. The most consistent feedback we hear is that their primary concern is cybersecurity. Given that financial institutions can lose customers, revenue, and reputation because of a breach, this is hardly surprising.
Physical security in banking has evolved toward network-based solutions with high-resolution cameras and high-capacity recorders. These devices have operating systems, communication capabilities, and passwords just like any other computer on a network. Any poorly protected device can easily become the attack surface hackers need to gain access to a financial institution’s infrastructure.
As a result, IT teams have become involved in the process of testing, selecting, and deploying all the devices on a bank’s network, including cameras and video management systems (VMS). The shift from focusing on physical security to IT security has changed the discussion. Many IT specialists ask questions about whom a vendor works with, and how they secure their products. However, when they aren’t sure about what questions to ask, it is up to vendors to lead these conversations.
Financial institutions need physical security system vendors who understand their cybersecurity concerns and who are working to mitigate against the risks associated with cyber threats. To start, they should be looking for four Key Cybersecurity Measures:
Device Hardening Protocols
While changing factory-set passwords might seem like a simple action, many institutions struggle with it. This is partly because of the sheer volume of devices they have on their networks. However, it is also because, during the installation process, many skip this step, assuming they’ll come back to it later. Unfortunately, just one camera that still has the default password can increase a network’s vulnerability to attacks.
Cameras that do not have default passwords and instead require users to set strong passwords before attaching the device to the network help protect banks. In addition, some vendors, like Hanwha Techwin, also provide network hardening guides that reduce the risks associated with improperly or unprotected devices.
Given the volume and type of data that financial institutions are collecting and storing, end-to-end encryption is vital. It is not enough to encrypt data in motion. Financial institutions must also be able to encrypt data at rest as well.
Encrypting data in motion protects it from anyone who is sniffing a system with the intention of capturing data packets passing through a network. On most networks, this means passwords and other account information. Within a physical security system, however, it also means transmitted data from the camera to the recorder or from the recorder to the management station.
Financial institutions still have to protect data at rest. In a physical security system, depending on IT policy this may include the video stored in cameras and recorders. This data may need to be encrypted in case hackers gain access to the recording platforms themselves.
Hackers take advantage of vulnerabilities in operating systems and third-party applications not kept up to date. Keeping current with the latest software updates and firmware patches helps reduce a system’s attack surface significantly.
In order to protect their networks, financial institutions should work with vendors who monitor cybersecurity threats globally, then produce, and distribute patches. The dedicated Security-Computer Emergency Response Team, or S-CERT, at Hanwha Techwin, for example, monitors evolving cybersecurity threats worldwide and develops patches to harden our devices against these threats. Through S-CERT, we are continuously working to future-proof our cameras.
Working with a Trusted Supply Chain
Banking and financial institutions need to work with vendors who manufacture all aspects of their cameras or security system products and who control their own distribution. End-to-end, in-house manufacturing is the best way to ensure that parts and chipsets follow best practices. When a vendor controls all aspects of manufacturing, it also provides customers with peace of mind because they know that all upgrades or changes are coming directly from the vendor rather than a third-party manufacturer.
To harden networks and protect against potentially devastating data breaches, it is important to collaborate with physical security vendors who are already out in front of cybersecurity issues. A vendor with strong cyber hygiene can help financial institutions and other financial institutions install the advanced solutions they require to mitigate against the risks of cyber threats.
[Case Study Sidebar] Wilson Bank
Wilson Bank & Trust, member FDIC, is an independent, community-based bank that began operating in Tennessee in 1987. Today, they have mortgage offices, operations centers, ATMs and branches located in and around Middle Tennessee that serve the city and surrounding rural areas. In total, they have operations and security at approximately 40 locations. The bank had cameras from multiple manufacturers on multiple systems. Most of them were already 8-10 years old. The image quality was low, and they could not get the video retention rates they wanted. In addition, many of the cameras had licensing agreements, so they were paying fees for products that were not meeting their needs.
The Bank wanted IT-based, PoE (Powered over Ethernet) cybersecure cameras that could produce high-quality video and did not require licenses. They also wanted DVRs or NVRs that would give them longer-term retention rates, 90-days at a minimum. After investigating their options, Wilson Bank & Trust determined that working with Hanwha Techwin cameras would be the best fit for their requirements. During the decision-making process, one of the deciding factors was that Hanwha cameras are manufactured in-house end-to-end. In their view, this was particularly important for mitigating cyber security risks.
According to Huff, “at the time, cybersecurity and network security issues were frequently reported as cameras were being compromised for use in Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. The ability to work with a company that does everything from manufacturing the chipset and camera to developing the software was a game-changer for us. We knew it would give us tremendous peace of mind.”
Upgrading the branches has included the installation of several panoramic cameras and network IR dome cameras. The PNM-9020V multi-sensor 180-degree panoramic camera provides up to 30fps at full resolution and are able to capture good quality images of a large area. For branch and building interiors, they installed a variety of dome cameras, including the QND – 6010R Network IR. This indoor camera provides 2MP maximum resolution, 30fps at all resolutions, motion detection, as well as tampering and defocus detection.
Today, the Bank has upgraded the security infrastructure at 40 of its locations with Hanwha cameras. By switching to industry standard PoE, IP-based cameras, the bank has realized significant savings concerning installation and maintenance costs. The bank installed cameras to record parking lot entrances and exists. This strategy has already helped the security team identify a vehicle associated with a fraud case by using an image of its license plate captured as it was leaving the facility.
The bank has also made use of the XNB-H6241A Network ATM Camera Kit with 8m cable. These cameras do not disrupt a branch’s aesthetics, which is important for maintaining a positive customer experience. At the same time, these kits have allowed the bank to capture images that are not possible with a traditional top-down view. Waist-up images, which include a person’s face, can be vital when it comes to investigating or prosecuting theft and fraud. Having access to images from this angle is already proving to be invaluable. In a recent case of fraud involving identity theft, an individual presented fictitious and forged documents at one of the bank’s branches. “Thanks to the Hanwha high resolution camera, we had a clear image that we were able to use to identify the individual,” said Elvis Huff, Assistant Vice-President and Director of Security at Wilson Bank & Trust.
This article originally appeared in the November / December 2021 issue of Security Today.