Imagine waking up on the silk sheets of your Monaco penthouse with a strange message on your phone saying you need to go to the office. As you exit your Lambo on the way to the company building, your COO runs over with wet red eyes, saying: “A hacker stole the leads from our CRM.” Crying, firing your COO, or jumping from a window are all options that flash through your eyes before you realize you just lost 35% to 65% of your annual income. Like you, all online brokers face exposure to threats from phishing, spamming, and spyware software that steal vital data worth millions.
What is a data breach?
When accessing information without authorization, it is a security incident known as a data breach. A data breach can cause considerable harm to both brokers and traders in several different ways. Generally speaking, data breaches are expensive because they take significant time to repair, meanwhile causing irreversible damage to lives and reputations.
In recent years, stories of massive data breaches have appeared in the news with alarming frequency, although it’s not surprising. Because technology has advanced so rapidly, more of our personal information has migrated to the digital world as time has progressed. Naturally, this has led to cyberattacks becoming more common.
According to a study by Ponemon Institute, a data breach costs a firm an average of $3.86m, which equates to $148 for every record stolen. This clearly shows how real the threat of data breaches is, particularly for anyone trading on the internet.
Those who want to open a forex brokerage firm without effective technology leave themselves wide open to hackers. Cybercriminals can get into the client databases and help themselves. However, they are clever about how they operate so as not to be detected, taking around 25% of records on the first breach only to return a few weeks later and taking whatever data remains.
Why do data breaches occur?
Cybercrime is a multi-billion-dollar industry and is a threat that will not go away. The primary type of data hackers seek is personally identifiable information that they can use to steal money, compromise identities, or even sell on the black market via the dark web.
There are a few reasons a data breach occurs, including by accident, although most cybersecurity attacks are specifically targeted. When a cybercriminal launches a targeted attack, they use spam and phishing email tactics to try and trick users into revealing data, download malware, or direct them to vulnerable websites.
Cybercriminals make vast sums of money and are predicted to cost the world around $10.5 trillion annually by 2025. Forex traders are particularly exposed to data breaches since a staggering $5 trillion is traded every day, attracting cyber criminals more than any other sector.The problem lies in that foreign exchange trading platform is no longer the domain of banks and global institutions. The internet has opened the arena wide to allow the average person to get involved in Forex, securities, and commodities trading wherever they are in the world. This means more data is exposed to cybercriminals than ever before, with data breaches now an almost everyday occurrence.
What kind of data is targeted in an attack?
The main target other than funds are Forex leads, trading platforms like MT4 white label, and liquidity, from a liquidity provider. Financial transactions form the core of Forex/CFD trading, which by nature requires a lot of sensitive data, especially when working with Forex CRM. These terabytes of personal and confidential information make online trading a particularly lucrative target for security attacks and data breaches.
In March this year, a prominent online forex trading site, had one of its unsecured servers hacked, preventing nearly 20TB and 16 billion records from being stolen. Although the server hosted critical financial data, it was left open without password or encrypted protection, leaving user information accessible to anyone. The target for most data breaches is personally identifiable information, known as PII. For the trading site, the list of data stolen included the following:
- First and surnames
- Email addresses
- Phone numbers
- Billing addresses
- Time zone
- IP addresses
- GPS co-ordinates
- Passport numbers
- Social media IDs, including Google and Facebook
In addition, cyber attackers helped themselves to files that had been uploaded by the users of the trading site for compliance verification, such as personal photos, national ID cards, birth certificates, bank account statements, drivers’ licenses, utility bills, and unredacted credit cards.
How traders can be vulnerable to data breaches
Forex traders and the systems they use are among the most vulnerable targets for hackers. In the most severe cases, hackers can access the platforms of brokerages too, which results in a much more significant data breach. The kind of attacks they can carry out includes the following:
- If hackers access passwords, they can make transactions, sell stocks or trading currencies, transfer funds to their accounts and then close them after execution.
- A hacker can access a trader’s account information, including their net worth and trading strategy.
- Malicious users can alter the bid or ask prices of any given instrument in a trading action and force traders to make the wrong move.
- Hackers can access personal information, financial history, trading strategies, bank accounts, and a host of other information they can use to drain bank accounts and disrupt brokerages.
Traders can be a victim of cybercrime either directly or indirectly. A hacker can target traders individually by gaining access to passwords or indirectly targeting them by attacking the broker. This is a significant concern as brokers maintain centralized records of traders’ data, making them ideal for cyber-attacks. Brokers stand to lose more in case of hacking since they deal on average with more significant amounts.
Eight tips to protect your brokerage
- Choose passwords that are at least 12 characters long
Passwords are not a detail. Don’t be imaginative because hackers can also possess that characteristic. Use a password generator for your work accounts. Make sure your password generator can create lengthy passwords containing letters, numbers, special characters and be at least 12 characters long. Try password generators like Lastpass, Norton, and Dashalane.
- Never confuse your personal life with your work
It’s elementary to hack into your brokerage’s system using downloads or links you clicked on without knowing what they were. For example, when you download a movie on Torrent, you don’t know where any of those links lead. The moment you approve one of those downloads is the moment when you invite someone into your brokerage’s system—download movies on your personal computer and separate the individual from the professional.
- Implement an antivirus system
Installing antivirus software is the most effective defense you have against hackers. Don’t spare money when it gets to choosing a complete and adequate antivirus system for your brokerage. Antivirus software will safeguard your browsing activity, company data, including CRM information about the company’s clients and your HR information about employees.
- Get a dedicated IP
A dedicated IP is an IP address that a service like a hosting site or a VPN provider assigns exclusively for your brokerage’s office. For safety reasons, some networks are only accessible through specific IP addresses. This way, only brokerage employees with access to the internet connection at the office can reach essential documents and other business-related data.
- Make sure no one sees your password when you type it
Yes, you don’t go out there and share your passwords, but when you need to check your CRM updates or a price of a particular commodity or asset, you may have to log in to your system in public when you think no one is looking. One word “don’t.”
- Use double authentication
Choose an authentication method in which you have to present two or more pieces of evidence (or factors) to an authentication mechanism. The most frequent double system is to generate two passwords. Use a third-party authenticator (TPA) app that enables two-factor authentication. These authenticators usually show a randomly generated and frequently changing code to use for authentication.
- Back up your data
If a hack happens, your data can be whipped out, or you can be blocked from accessing it. The safest thing you can do to prevent this from happening is to archive the most important information you have — classified documents from your business, CRM data from your clients, employee information, and personal belongings like family photos. This way, you can restore your brokerage seamlessly.
- Email protection
Use email protection and encryption so that only the people in your company can read sensitive internal messages and not receive dangerous notifications from the outside. Sending emails containing malware and other malicious files is one of the hackers’ most common ways to steal information and access your CRM. Use the antivirus scan and other tools to filter out those emails.
Data breaches are very much a part of day-to-day Forex trading, so it makes sense to use a safe CRM system. Research shows that brokerages can lose up to 65% of their business because of a data breach, making it essential to provide a completely reinforced, robust, and secure platform for today’s traders.
Using the latest encryption technology and having rigid authentication processes are just a few of the tools you can use to ensure the best protection against cyber-crime. Although it is impossible to predict when a data breach will occur, it is essential that your brokerage works with an established and reputed technology company to help it navigate through the waters of Forex security.