Fintech Security

Open APIs, Digital Banking and Hybrid Work – How TM One Protects its Clients from Cyber Threats

The pandemic accelerated digitalisation to levels never before seen, forcing Banking, Financial Services, and Insurance (BFSI) players to evolve quickly or risk being left behind. In addition to pivoting to a remote workforce, BFSI companies also embraced digital banking and open application programming interfaces (API) in a race to compete with upstart fintechs.

TM One, the enterprise and public sector solutions arm of Malaysian telecommunications giant Telekom Malaysia Berhad (TM), was on hand to help its BFSI clients using their Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) concept – which TM One calls SASE, to quickly secure their environments while still achieving optimal speed-to-market for their digital banking products.

When the pandemic hit, many major BFSI players had to quickly pivot to enable their people to work remotely, securely. TM One responded with its SASE offerings for two main components: Internet Access and Organization Assets.

Ts. (Technologist) Dr. Saiyid Syahir Al-Edrus is the General Manager of Cybersecurity Services at TM One is overseeing such efforts in real-time.

Saiyid Syahir Al-Edrus

Dr. Saiyid Syahir Al-Edrus

Saiyid recounts,

“First, employees need secure internet access. Typically when you browse the internet you are exposed to malicious actors. A cybersecurity solution protects employees by connecting all the user traffic via a micro tunnel that goes into the SASE enforcement node or cloud proxy. Second, we secured employee access while using organization assets such as SAP, Salesforce, and emails via secure remote access.

“Our cybersecurity solutions deployment is very quick, because TM One does not need to deploy devices. All we need to do is push an agent into the customer user’s laptop. The agent acts as the router, connecting users to the closest node for them to break out to the Internet.

“This agent is also intelligent enough to tell when a user wants to access a cloud application that resides in Microsoft Azure, for instance. So it will route you automatically based on that HTTP request. All IT activities are secured via a secure tunnel, which is encrypted and encapsulated,”

he said.

Balancing digital banking growth and security concerns

BFSI players are launching a myriad of mobile apps dedicated to stock broking, wealth management and other financial services to capture new markets and revenue, but their security practices are not evolving quickly enough with these new digital offerings.

That gap is due to the lack of security DevOps, said Saiyid. Too often, security is an afterthought, the last piece to the product puzzle pre-launch. TM One is on a mission to convince more clients to involve security right from the beginning of the product development process with SecDevOps.

“SecDevOps oversees security measures and how to secure all their applications or any digital development. From the start of the app development process, SecDevOps will look at multiple security perspectives: What sort of app are we launching? Will it be hosted in the cloud or on premise? Once released to market, how do you secure the app from being tampered?

“Typically, you download an app from a marketplace, not the developer’s website. However, when an app or a patch is still pending launch from the official source, a malicious actor can hijack the app by releasing a fraudulent version first. Anyone visiting the app marketplace will mistake the fake app for the real thing.

“Even after the app has already been released by the official source, it can still be tampered with using malicious code. This code or virus is able to steal user data or hijack the data that users key in.

“Typically, a BFSI app cannot be published if you do not remediate any non-compliance findings or gaps. This will delay further the release of the app or product. So you can see how this creates a bit of friction between a business’s market growth aspirations and compliance with certain regulations. If you only try to secure the environment at the end of the production process, you will just delay the launch further,” Saiyid remarked.

TM One provides Professional Services in consulting and advising BFSI clients about SecDevOps throughout the product development process. These include conducting VAPT (Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing) and security code assessments, through which the cybersecurity team roots out bugs and corrects app syntax that can unwittingly enable errors or bugs which are then taken advantage of by malicious actors.

“We’ve seen instances where the app works fine, but certain non-best practices in the code stream open it up to abuse or breach and increase product susceptibility to hacking and SQL injections,” Saiyid warned.

Besides that, TM One also secures the app infrastructure. For cloud-hosted apps, solutions include setting the parameters for VTC (video teleconferencing) and web application firewalls (WAF).

Cybersecurity is both proactive and reactive

Due to massive monetary and brand value, BFSI players are among the most-targeted groups by advanced persistent threat (APTs), which are groups of hackers that have been backed up by certain organizations that keep on attacking certain entities or certain individuals.

For TM One, the focus for the second half of 2022 and 2023 is protecting its BFSI both before and after APT attacks.

“TM One’s Digital Risk Protection services include threat intelligence. We scour the public web, the deep web, and the dark web for certain keywords such as the company or brand name or even the name of a VVIP linked to a BFSI institution. If there is chatter about organizing an attack we can quickly inform the customer to backup and monitor certain assets. If the client already outsources monitoring to TM One, we will do it ourselves. That’s the prevention part.

“However, despite your best efforts, APTs can still breach your environment. That’s why our Digital Risk Protection services also include mitigation or takedown services. If your data has been breached or shared offsite, we initiate a takedown service by collaborating with our international pool of partners to reach out to the malicious actor or whoever has shared the sensitive data. We force them to take down the sensitive data from being published, on threat of legal action. That’s the mitigation part,” Saiyid explained.

For BFSI players, brand value lies chiefly in customer trust in putting their finances in their hands. Securing those hands requires both proactive and reactive cybersecurity measures. At TM One, cybersecurity is a continuous, evolving effort that is both proactive against possible threats and reactive with quick-acting and widespread mitigation efforts.

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