Weak DevOps cryptographic policies increase financial services cyber risk

Cryptographic security risks are amplified in DevOps settings, where compromises in development or test environments can spread to production systems and applications. This is a particular issue for financial services organizations, which have been early adopters of DevOps technology.

weak DevOps cryptographic policies

According to a study conducted by Dimensional Research, many financial services organizations have fairly strong cryptographic security policies in their production systems; however, they often fail to enforce the same vital measures in their DevOps environments.

In addition, financial services organizations continue to use DevOps certificates once software, apps and updates have gone live. This oversight leaves vulnerabilities in their systems that could easily be prevented.

“Financial services organizations use DevOps technology to deliver new features and improve customer experience in today’s hyper competitive market,” said Kevin Bocek, chief security strategist for Venafi. “However, the competitive advantage DevOps offers can’t come at the expense of security, data privacy and compliance. It’s clear many financial services organizations are still struggling with securing the machine identities that impact everything from mobile banking to high speed trading. Despite DevOps teams indicating they are aware of the risks associated with TLS/SSL keys and certificates—the most frequently used method to establish machine identities—this awareness clearly isn’t being translated into meaningful protection.”

Key findings

Financial services organizations struggle with enforcing security polices for DevOps environments. Almost a third (30%) of financial services organizations do not consistently enforce the same cryptographic security policies for DevOps projects as they do with production environments. In addition, 7% of respondents were unsure if these polices were enforced across both DevOps and production environments.

The majority (80%) of financial services DevOps teams are aware of the volume and severity of cyber attacks as a result of compromised keys and certificates. Two thirds (67%) of these teams are aware of the controls needed to prevent this type of cyber attack.

Only half (51%) of financial services organizations replace all DevOps certificates with production certificates once live. When certificates are not changed, there is no way to distinguish between the identities of untested machines that should remain in development and trusted machines that are safe to place in production.

On the positive side, financial services organizations generally implement robust cryptographic security practices throughout their operations, with 75% requiring strong keys (2048-bit or stronger) and 60% of organizations requiring different certificate authorities for development and production environments. Encouragingly, only 2% of respondents said their organization does not require key and certificate policies.

weak DevOps cryptographic policies

Evade detection

As the speed and scale of DevOps development intensifies, particularly in the financial services industry, the need to secure machine identities through encryption is exploding. Without robust security measures and practices, successful attacks that target DevOps keys and certificates can allow attackers to remain hidden in encrypted traffic and evade detection. According to a recent report from A10 Networks, 41% of cyber attacks used encryption to evade detection.

“As we’ve seen with the SWIFT attacks, financial services organizations are a valuable and popular target for cyber criminals,” said Tim Bedard, director of threat intelligence and analytics for Venafi. “If the keys and certificates used by financial services DevOps teams are not properly protected, cyber criminals will be able to exploit SSL/TLS keys and certificates to create their own encrypted tunnels. Or attackers can use misappropriated SSH keys to pivot inside the network, elevate their own privileged access, install malware or exfiltrate large quantities of sensitive corporate data all while remaining undetected.”

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