Microsoft Cloud Security Assessment: Everything Financial Institutions Need to Know

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With the rise of hostile nation-states sponsoring aggressive, well-organized, and well-funded hacker organizations targeting critical infrastructure (including the financial institutions of the world), cybersecurity has taken on a whole new dimension. Added to this is the expanded attack surface area created by new cloud infrastructure and remote workforces. How can we be sure all an institution’s sensitive assets are fully protected right now and stay that way as new threats evolve?

The prospect of a ransomware attack, while serious, may not even be the worst possible outcome for a financial institution of a cybersecurity failure. Far more dangerous to the survival of the business is the large-scale theft of private, personal, or financial data or the destruction of core recordkeeping systems’ integrity by a malevolent actor. Even when limited in scope, such failures can cause irreparable reputational damage and expose the firm to severe financial penalties.

Microsoft has made the security of cloud platforms their highest priority for the better part of a decade. Their success in transforming the Office, Dynamics, and Azure products into veritable fortresses is a testament to Microsoft’s best-in-class, AI-based cybersecurity technology. 

But as good as that AI technology may be, it can’t protect Microsoft customers who only partially or improperly implement it. For that reason, Microsoft has created a cybersecurity assessment program that enables select certified Microsoft partners, such as Hitachi Solutions, to offer a cybersecurity gap analysis performed at no cost to qualified Microsoft customers.

In this article, we’ll provide an explanation of how financial institutions can leverage this offer to identify areas for improvement in their cybersecurity defenses.

What is a Cloud Security Assessment for Financial Institutions?

The objectives of a Microsoft Cloud Security Assessment are straightforward and simple to understand. The program is designed to give you a valuable third-party analysis of your current security posture, focusing on how your organization has utilized the appropriate Microsoft security functionality to safeguard the assets you have moved to the cloud.

Assessment analysis is focused on the security provisioning of the following systems:

  • Windows or virtual environment
  • Endpoint management and security
  • SQL and Windows Server
  • Firewall instances and security software
  • Shadow IT
  • Cloud-based security configuration

During the assessment, we not only conduct tool-based scans of infrastructure and servers but also review the existing security architecture and policies for the institution’s cloud platform. We evaluate vulnerabilities end-to-end across the estate but focus in particular on identity and compliance risks

The end result of the assessment is a set of findings and recommendations identifying cybersecurity gaps and areas of potential improvement. For each issue we document, we provide remediation priorities and best-practice recommendations.

Which Financial Services Firms Need a Cloud Security Assessment?

There are few missions in financial services more critical than safeguarding the information and assets entrusted to the institution. This is a challenging task in the best of times, but in today’s environment of heightened security risk, it is more essential than ever that this mission be conducted competently and flawlessly. 

In particular, financial institutions should aim for three key objectives in assessing their cloud security:

  • Increase awareness of existing vulnerabilities to cyber attack and potential business risks​
  • Align data compliance policies to industry standards​ to reduce exposure
  • Integrate identity management requirements into standard business processes, now an essential best practice

Malware agents are employing sophisticated resources and powerful software to scan financial institution defenses to identify and exploit weaknesses. Successfully thwarting these attacks requires not just strong defenses but also equally sophisticated detection and response countermeasures with global capabilities.

Fortunately, Microsoft has provided a comprehensive suite of world-class security software appropriate for safeguarding financial institution cloud operations of every size and type. Identity and endpoint protection is important to all financial firms, especially for smaller firms such as hedge funds, private equity shops, and credit unions. All of these should leverage Microsoft’s Defender offerings as extensively as possible to protect their decentralized remote workforce, including high-value employees, from targeted malware attacks.

Larger financial firms should be taking advantage of Microsoft’s Cybersecurity Reference Architecture to integrate enterprise-grade cybersecurity into every aspect of their operations and ensure seamless interoperability with other third-party operations and security systems. Microsoft has a broad spectrum of real-time threat assessment and response management tools designed for enterprise operation at scale in cloud environments.

The investment in security should be commensurate with the assets at risk, and the Microsoft Cloud Security Assessment is designed to help each financial services firm achieve the optimal balance of security provisions versus risk.

What are the Outcomes of a Cloud Security Assessment?

The principal outcome of the cloud security assessment is to empower your organization to make cybersecurity decisions backed by data and guided by industry experts. The analysis work conducted during the assessment will be organized around the following key high-value deliverables:

  • An understanding of your organization’s existing threat landscape to improve threat surface management and reduce exposure
  • Quantitative data analysis of your firm’s security posture with Office 365 and an Azure Secure Score analysis
  • A prioritized roadmap with specific recommendations for progressive improvements in security architecture, policies, and operations
  • Best practices to future-proof critical business processes with the Zero Trust Architecture, integrated identity management, and endpoint protection provided in the Microsoft stack

As a trusted Microsoft strategic partner, Hitachi Solutions is also ready to assist financial institutions in moving quickly to implement any remedial recommendations as needed. We can work collaboratively with a firm’s IT staff to upgrade security while doing knowledge transfer of key security concepts and best practices, or we can take on the work in a completely outsourced engagement to deliver the necessary improvements immediately.

Move Forward with Confidence & Hitachi Solutions

The cloud security assessment is performed at no cost to the customer by a certified Microsoft partner, such as Hitachi Solutions, which has significant real-world technical expertise in implementing Microsoft’s cybersecurity reference architecture. 

Hitachi Solutions is one of the very few partners who meet Microsoft’s certification requirements for this program. We bring very strong competency in the Microsoft security domain, as well as extensive financial services industry experience integrating the entire Microsoft stack into supporting your data estate initiatives. 

We have more than two decades of experience supporting financial institutions, from money center banks, clearing houses, hedge funds, and private equity firms, to broker/dealers, national brokerage franchises, regional banks, and credit unions. Our knowledge of the industry’s special requirements — whether the complex instruments making up today’s product portfolio, the systems required to support them, or the regulatory/compliance requirements under which the platforms operate — makes Hitachi Solutions uniquely qualified to advise financial institutions in the design of their cloud security architecture.

For professional guidance on how to leverage the full Microsoft Cybersecurity suite of tools and ensure compliance with Microsoft’s Cybersecurity Reference, you should consider taking advantage of Microsoft’s Cloud Security Assessment. It is a no-cost, hugely beneficial way to get a quick best-practices reality check on your current security architecture and have a set of concrete recommendations and priorities for continuous improvement.

Contact us for your complimentary cloud security assessment or for more information. Our cloud security team is standing by to answer your questions!