Over the years, cybersecurity threats have been on the rise, specifically concentrated towards US government agencies. One of the main attractants that these agencies give off to cybercriminals is their likelihood of budget constraints, especially towards internet security.
Unfortunately, poor prioritization of data security protocols has opened up many government agencies and their customers to suffering malicious attacks designed to steal financial information.
Staying well-informed on the latest cybersecurity threats and understanding how they can be prevented is vital for any agency wishing to protect their systems from an attack. This is especially important when managing payment processing systems and understanding the risks and accountability involved.
Uncovering the Latest Cybersecurity Threats
Today, cyber-attacks come in all shapes and sizes. While each of these threats serves its own malicious purpose, all of them are designed to compromise your data security.
Malware attacks are better known for the Trojan viruses they contain. This malicious software is downloaded into unsuspecting systems and can compromise data through the use of spyware, worms and computer viruses.
Phishing attacks are designed to do exactly what they sound like — go "fishing." The most common types of phishing attacks are deployed by email; 60 to 70 percent of all emails received are now classified as spam. A large percentage of these spam emails contain phishing attacks in the form of executable files, hidden malicious code, and other forms of spyware. The goal of most of these attacks is to mine for login and password information through fake account resolutions and "security updates."
Ransomware attacks are the newest and scariest types of cybersecurity threats today. Currently, there are a variety of well-known ransomware programs in circulation, including WannaCry and Zeus/Zbot. These programs are designed to hold important data and security information for ransom under threat of data destruction. One of the latest victims of this form of attack is the city of Atlanta.
On March 22nd, Atlanta’s city services came to a halt when the SamSam ransomware took over critical system access. Along with years of data loss suffered by city council members, Atlanta residents were unable to pay for essential services or access their accounts online. City officials urged citizens to contact their financial institutions and monitor their accounts as there is still no evidence of the scale of this catastrophic breach.
Understanding PCI Compliance and Vulnerability Management
In the aftermath of Atlanta’s ransomware attack, government agencies are wise to take very seriously the responsibility they have to keep their customers’ information secure. One way to combat cybersecurity threats is by maintaining PCI compliance at all times.
When customers provide their payment information, organizations are expected to store and process that information through a securely hosted and encrypted system. It is the responsibility of the payee to understand all applicable state laws and security standards associated with storing financial information. This responsibility can also carry over to accountabilities in the establishment of system security protocols.
Managing system vulnerability is vital to ensuring PCI standards are being upheld. Maintaining secure networks and firewall configurations is an important step to countering cybersecurity threats. Agencies should regularly update their antivirus software and maintain secure applications in their systems. Many organizations also decide to hire third-party payment providers for additional support and security management.
Working With Reputable Payment Processing Providers
With the shift to electronic payment solutions, governments are now finding it critical to work with reputable payment processing providers that can keep up with the emerging trends in cybersecurity. Also, the need for efficient revenue collection and management of cash flow will only increase over time for government agencies, meaning accessibility and automation are now a business necessity.
FivePoint Payments is a leader in government technology solutions and expert in interoperation efficiency. For over 30 years, FivePoint has provided centralized payment solutions to government agencies wishing to be PCI compliant and offer ultimate payment flexibility. Governments should expect more from their payment providers, and FivePoint would agree.