Cloud Infrastructure & Compliance: The Top Threats in Financial Services

Financial organizations need robust solutions for cloud security and compliance

Ermetic Team By Ermetic Team

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The finance industry is a strong adopter of public cloud – 83% of financial services companies are already using the public cloud in some form.* The cloud’s many benefits can help reduce costs, drive innovation, meet customers’ digital expectations – and even enhance security.

As financial institutions migrate to the cloud, they encounter a new world and new set of security challenges. For starters, they are the primary target of cyber attackers – with ransomware, supply chain attacks and digital vulnerabilities ranking as the most serious threats. Attackers typically use exploitation patterns designed at breaching infrastructure and gaining access to high-value assets. Almost every cloud data breach – both its enablement and its amplification – involves misconfigured infrastructure or a compromised identity, service or human, and their permissions to access resources.

The move to the cloud gives financial organizations an opportunity to implement effective cloud security from the start. First, you must be aware that the greatest risk to your cloud environment is misconfigured identity – with network security and workload vulnerabilities runners-up as the second- and third-ranked risks. To address your top risk – and understand your cloud environment’s security posture – you must have granular visibility into the access granted every identity and to every resource, and the actual use of that access. Such visibility is the cornerstone of building least privilege across your entire cloud infrastructure in which you define the right set of permissions for the function and not more, reducing your attack surface.

Ermetic is the only cloud infrastructure security platform able to show risk findings with surgical precision that identifies the risk and provides an actionable solution for fixing it. Financial organizations worldwide use Ermetic to easily and expertly manage identity and access risk, ensure compliance and drive least privilege that reduces the cloud attack surface.

Cloud Security Challenges of Financial Institutions

Financial organizations need an effective cloud security implementation because they manage large volumes of sensitive information, need to comply with strict industry standards and are the top pick of attackers.They must also cope with the challenges all industries face in the cloud.

Finance is the primary target for cyberattackers

of data breach motives in North America were financial
Average. cost of a data breach in financial orgs
3 times in the past year

The FS-ISAC raised the threat level, compared to once in each of previous years

Source: Verizon 2022 Data Breach Investigations Report Source: IBM Cost of a Data Breach 2022 Source: Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center, 2021


Regulator-induced challenges

With its large volumes of confidential customer and other sensitive information, the finance industry must adhere to strict industry standards and best practices for protecting data in the cloud. The fragmented nature of financial regulatory bodies makes reviews and approvals hard to attain. A Google and Harris Poll survey of financial services institutions found that more than a third (38%) of on-premises respondents were not using cloud services due to the immense investment of resources required for the regulatory approval process.

Rushed cloud adoption

Finance entities are accelerating their migration to the cloud, development at breakneck speed even as migration is underway. Yet rushed cloud adoption – and new environments brought in by mergers and acquisitions – can lead to risky implementation if cloud security best practices are lacking. For example, failure to effectively monitor or resolve misconfigurations, or excessive granting of permissions that may seem harmless, can widen your cloud attack surface and, upon a breach, potential damage from lateral movement. Security teams report the difficulty of standardizing or collaborating on security across different product groups, augmented by a lack of visibility into the cloud environment for all.

Cloud vs on-prem

Agile, developer-centric and business-driven, the cloud is different from on prem – and so is securing it. Its attack vectors span IAM, network, workloads and data. Identity is the new perimeter, making misconfigured identities and privileges the greatest risk to the cloud environment.

By 2023


of security failures will result from inadequate management of identities, access, and privileges


At any given time, a cloud environment is using hundreds of policies and configurations, coupled with tens of thousands of service identities, and human identities, all with privileges to resources. Just one excessive permission is enough for an attacker to take over the entire environment. Without secure access management, identities can be easily breached. To implement least privilege, as required by cloud security best practice, you must be able to see deeply into your cloud environment - if you can’t, how will you know the scope of privileges needed, and when? You need to know which identities can access which resources and if the permissions are in use; if you don’t know this, your environment is not secure and not compliant.

Lack of granular visibility

Cloud complexity creates a lack of visibility into what is being provisioned in entitlements, obscuring seeing into excessive permissions and other access-related risks. Securing identities and entitlements in cloud infrastructure with native tools is an impossible task – the tools require much work, are hard to scale and do not support multicloud environments. To effectively determine access risk, a solution needs to use more than simply the APIs of cloud providers to visualize the data – this approach is superficial and the findings it reveals are not usable. Actionable visibility requires a solution built with deep understanding of the mechanisms of each cloud provider’s infrastructure and permissions model.

Short on cloud expertise

Many organizations at an early stage of cloud maturity – and even those farther along – find they are lacking the cloud expertise they need. Widespread digital transformation including remote work has led to a worldwide shortage of cloud professionals, with heavy demand for employees proficient in AWS, GCP, Azure, Kubernetes and different areas of cloud security. Today, many organizations, including financial, are struggling with filling these positions, which are essential to properly building, maintaining, innovating and securing a cloud environment.

Shared responsibility with cloud providers

The “shared responsibility” model is a cloud security framework defined by cloud providers that determines which cloud components are the cloud provider’s responsibility for securing and which are the customer’s. While intended to provide clarity, the model is often confusing, especially for professionals taking their first steps in cloud security. As a rule, the cloud customer bears responsibility for securing their data in the cloud.

Ermetic - Unique value to financial services institutions for IAM Misconfiguration

Ermetic is a comprehensive cloud infrastructure security platform that enables financial entities to protect their cloud infrastructure and maintain compliance. Its core capabilities include full-stack visibility, actionable risk findings, automated remediation, anomaly detection and compliance, from runtime to production. The unique identity-first platform detects and mitigates risky permissions and faulty misconfigurations with accuracy, and enforces least privilege across financial institutions’ multicloud infrastructures.

Ermetic enables financial institutions to expertly identify and fix access-related risk, monitor regulatory compliance, and implement zero trust through least privilege. Ermetic offers exceptional ease of use – including workflow integrations – that reduces overhead and makes managing security and its complexity easier for stakeholders of all cloud skill levels.

What Makes Ermetic Different

Just about all configured permissions for services and applications running in the cloud are excessive. Overcoming this IAM misconfiguration problem requires depth of visibility and insight into actual permissions use. Only a detailed, precise level of intelligence enables you to mitigate the excess by defining the right set of permissions for the hundreds of thousands of microservices and applications running in your environment such that they are sufficient for the function and not more.

Ermetic provides this depth and precision, enabling you to answer the key questions of: what access each identity has and to what extent the access permissions were recently used; and which resource can be accessed by which identities and to what extent the resource was recently accessed. No other cloud security solution provides this kind of depth. The depth also enables Ermetic to identify with accuracy which risks are more important and which are less important - which permissions are very sensitive such that misconfiguring them can give access to take over the whole cloud environment.

Ermetic offers precise, no-false positive findings, context and an actionable solution that enables you to fix the problem. The platform is highly usable in that it understands the different mechanisms of the cloud provider infrastructures and their permissions model, enabling it to be precise and conservative about its policy recommendations. Built into Ermetic is years of understanding of every mechanism of every cloud provider. As Ermetic adds new capabilities, it continues to offer this same depth.

Ermetic - Evolving Cloud Infrastructure Security

Ermetic offers holistic cloud infrastructure security that includes cloud identity entitlements management (CIEM), cloud security posture management (CSPM) and other capabilities in one platform, to provide industry-leading:

  • Multicloud inventory management
    • Manage the full range of cloud resources across permissions, configurations, network and activities
  • Full-stack risk assessment across identities, network, compute and data
    • Reveal excessive permissions, network exposure, misconfigured resources, sensitive data and vulnerable workloads. Enforce least privilege with Just in Time access for developers.
  • Automatic remediation tailored to your needs
    • Mitigate risk efficiently using auto-generated policies based on actual activity and integrated across ticketing, CI/CD pipelines, and IaC and other workflows
  • Policy enforcement & shift left
    • From development to production, define and enforce automated guardrails for access permissions and resource configuration
  • Anomaly and threat detection
    • Detect suspicious behavior and configuration changes with continuous behavioral analysis. Investigate incidents including session monitoring with visibility into enriched access logs.
  • Compliance & access governance
    • Continuously audit inventory and compliance including PCI-DSS, NIST, CCPA, GDPR, SOC2, ISO and CIS. Generate reports including for asset inventory, network configurations and activity audits.

Next Steps

Securing cloud infrastructure to fend off attackers pursuing the sensitive data of financial organizations requires a new mindset. Of all the risks, misconfiguration around identity and access management is the greatest. Conventional IAM solutions solve for employee permissions, not the permissions of service identities. You may not be aware you have this problem, but you and every organization using the cloud does. Wherever you are on your journey to the cloud, prioritize implementing a solution that provides deep, granular visibility as the cornerstone of the least privilege needed to effectively secure your cloud infrastructure.

Ermetic offers financial organizations comprehensive cloud infrastructure security and compliance built from the ground up to uniquely identify risky access and misconfigurations that matter the most, and provide usable fixes easy to implement - reducing risk and saving security stakeholders hours and days of time. Using Ermetic you can incorporate the deep visibility and precise assessment of access use and risk that is essential to establishing least privilege. Ermetic also offers an incremental approach for strategically advancing your organization to greater cloud security maturity.

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