Document Security in Banking: Best Practices, Useful Tools & More

Published: July 03, 2024

In today’s digital age, document security in banking has become a cornerstone of safeguarding sensitive information for customers, employees, and other stakeholders. From account statements to intricate monetary policies, protecting this information poses a challenge which, if mishandled, can have disastrous consequences.

As the banking sector has transitioned to digital operations, the importance of document security has grown exponentially. With most documents now stored and shared digitally, banks and financial institutions must prioritize document security to prevent costly data breaches and potential penalties from regulatory authorities.

In this article, we’ll explore the vital importance of document security in banking, highlighting key threats and the best practices to safeguard against them. We’ll also delve into the regulatory and legal imperatives for robust document security and provide effective solutions to ensure the safety of sensitive information.

Types of Digital Documents in Banking

The banking sector works with many different types of documents every day. While most of these documents may be for internal use between different departments, there are also documents with customer information.

Here are the digital documents a typical bank or credit union deals with on a day-to-day basis:

  • Electronic financial statements and transaction records
  • Customer information forms (for example, loan applications and account opening applications) and identification documents (state ID, driver’s license, tax returns, etc.)
  • Departmental documents such as policies, procedures, memos, and reports
  • Legal or regulatory documents such as financial or ESG reports
  • Copies of physical documents that may not be digital initially (archives, checks, deposit slips, etc.)

Key Threats to Digital Document Security

Banks and financial institutions are a natural target of cyber threats. Why? It’s simple—money. Attackers often attack financial companies to steal money. And security threats in banking only seem to be rising. In 2023, there were a record-breaking 744 data compromise incidents in the US financial sector, up from 268 the year before.

Here are the main threats:

  • Cyberattacks: Such threats include malware, viruses, and DoS (denial of service) attacks, often aimed at disrupting services and damaging the business. As the financial sector is integral to a country’s economy, banks easily become the target of cyber attacks from domestic and foreign enemies.
  • Data Breaches: Banks are often vulnerable to data breaches, where attackers steal information like credit card numbers or personally identifiable information (PII). According to the VMware Modern Bank Heists 5.0 report, 74 per cent of financial firms surveyed were ransomware targets. Social engineering attacks such as phishing are common in the finance sector, although these attacks often target the bank’s customers.
  • Insider Threats: Financial firms, like most businesses, are faced with insider threats, such as employee negligence or deliberate attempts to disrupt services or steal information. Unauthorized access is the lead cause of such security incidents.
  • Vulnerabilities: Unfortunately, many banks still rely on legacy systems, which are vulnerable to hackers’ exploitation. That’s not to say that the latest systems are totally immune, but legacy systems pose a significant risk due to outdated security protocols and unpatched vulnerabilities.

Digital Document Security Measures

Here are the most commonly used security measures to protect digital documents:

  • Encryption: Encryption can scramble documents containing sensitive information like accounts or social security numbers. That way, anyone without authorization can’t make use of the document. Encryption should be used for both storage and transfer of documents.
  • Multi-factor Authentication: Multi-factor authentication (MFA) adds an extra layer of security to an access control system by requiring a password and a one-time code/biometric verification at login. This ensures that only authorized personnel get to access and download documents.
  • Secure Data Transmission Protocols: Protocols like HTTPS and SSL ensure data is transferred in an encrypted format, protecting it from eavesdropping during online banking activities.
  • Security Monitoring and Audits: Banks regularly monitor their systems and conduct audits to identify and address any vulnerabilities that could compromise document security.
  • Secure Disposal: Any bank documents that are to be discarded, should be shredded or destroyed digitally, using specialized methods to prevent unauthorized reconstruction.

Regulatory and Compliance Requirements

Banking is a heavily regulated industry. While many regulations pertain to financial dealings, others directly focus on information security. Banks and financial institutions handle the PII of millions of citizens, so they’re subject to tough regulations for securing information. Regulatory compliance mandates document security, especially for documents containing customers’ PII.

Here are the regulations that typically apply to financial institutes:

  • GLBA: The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) safeguards the privacy of customer financial information held by banks and other financial institutions.
  • PCI DSS: The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) establishes security requirements for protecting cardholder data.
  • GDPR: The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) applies to all companies, including banks, that process customer data from European residents and mandates strong data protection measures.
  • SOX: The Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Act ensures the accuracy and reliability of financial reporting by banks, with implications for data security.
  • PSD 2: Europe’s Revised Payment Services Directive (PSD 2) regulates strong customer authentication for online payments. It’s part of the PCI DSS standard.
  • FFIEC: The Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) sets cybersecurity guidelines for financial institutions, including banks.

Non-compliance with any applicable regulations can result in penalties. For instance, the maximum penalty for non-compliance with GDPR is EURO 20 million or four percent of annual turnover, whichever is higher. Similarly, GLBA non-compliance can result in a $100,000 penalty per violation.

Best Practices for Enhancing Digital Document Security

Here are the best practices for achieving fool-proof document security in the banking sector:

Strengthen User Access Policies

First and foremost, devise and implement a robust access control policy within the organization. Utilize role-based access control (RBAC) that limits access to critical documents to authorized personnel only. For example, employees dedicated to working with high-value investment clients may only access their clients’ account statements.

MST’s eViewer HTML solution allows easy access control to digital documents with integrations with Single Sign-On (SSO) protocols such as OAuth and SAML.

Regular Data Backups

Ensure all critical data, including documents, are properly backed up, ideally in several locations. As many financial institutes have on-premise storage, documents should be encrypted and stored off-site for maximum security. Make backup and multiple copies of data is an integral part of information security and include physical documents too, so their digital copies can be stored safely.

Although MST is primarily a document-viewing and management solution, it can seamlessly integrate with existing systems, so any converted, manipulated, or redacted documents can be backed up instantly.

Secure Mobile Access

Any files accessed via work or personal mobile devices should have adequate security measures to prevent exploitation. Solutions like mobile device management (MDM) software, which allows security admins to monitor mobile devices for security threats and unauthorized access, can achieve this.

When viewing documents on mobile, MSTs eViewer solution incorporates the same security protocols and measures as it does for desktop viewing within the organization. So, even if an employee is accessing a document off-site, on their mobile device, the required protections will exist.

Encryption of Storage and Transfers

Use end-to-end encryption when sharing documents outside the organization network, for example, with customers, business partners, or regulatory authorities. This ensures that the information contained in the document is protected during transmission and at its destination.

The eViewer document viewing solution has built-in end-to-end encryption. Regardless of how the document is shared, it’s fully encrypted to prevent breaches.

Remote Work Security

Create security policies for remote workers to access systems and documents. With cloud applications and virtual private networks (VPNs), employees can access company systems remotely using corporate or personal devices. Use necessary authentication measures like MFA, RBAC, and session limits.

MST makes it easy for remote workers to access and edit critical documents without compromising security. The eViewer’s features, like encryption, password protection, and eSignatures, can enhance security for hybrid work environments.

Convert Physical Documents to Digital

Although the banking sector has embraced digitization, many banking document processes continue to involve paper-based documents. For example, some banks require customers to record their signatures on paper forms when opening an account or manually redacting personal identification information on paper by using a black marker. Such documents are then digitized by scanning.

Digitizing physical documents provides security against risks such as theft or loss. MST takes it a step further with Optical Character Recognition (OCR), which turns physical documents into searchable and editable digital versions. OCR in banking can save a lot of time and money by turning forms and policy documents into readily usable Word or PDF files.

Implement Version Control Systems

Version control is a must for documents that require frequent editing and collaboration. This allows changes to be tracked easily. In banking, documents often have to go through different departments for checks and approvals. Similarly, policy documents may have multiple people working on them. Maintaining secure versions can be very handy in such scenarios and increase accountability.

MST eViewer creates new document versions whenever a document is manipulated across over 100 file types or when a document is redacted by automatically hiding sensitive information while retaining the original file. This makes it easy for the integrating application to manage document versions according to their use case, ECM, and storage infrastructure, and to easily revert to a previous version to undo any changes. Audit trail logs also show who accessed a document and when.

Standardize Document Procedures

Create and implement standardized document formats and procedures. This creates consistency across the organization and minimizes human errors. With clearly defined document editing and sharing procedures, employees won’t make the mistake of sharing documents they shouldn’t.

Avoid Unsecure Email for File Transfers

If an employee’s email account gets compromised, any documents shared with them via email can fall into the wrong hands. To avoid such situations, it’s best to utilize secure file-sharing solutions like ShareFile, or email encryption services like Trustifi, which are available across different platforms. MST eViewer can also allow you to share your files securely by only sharing the document URL to other users and not the actual document. Once the user clicks on the URL, eViewer will present the document to the user, keeping the document secure on your bank’s servers. Additionally, MST can support various file formats so you would not need to worry about document conversion.

Conduct Regular Security Audits

With security threats evolving rapidly, it’s imperative to periodically revisit security policies and conduct regular audits to find flaws in document security.

Audit the effectiveness of document security measures. Obtain reports on security incidents such as unauthorized access, document manipulation or deletion, and leaks of sensitive information. Adapt necessary measures to bolster document and overall digital security further.

Use a Document Management System (DMS)

A DMS can make it easier to manage digital documents by bringing all the functions in one place, whether converting documents, setting access controls, backing up files, or defining workflows.

MST eViewer can readily integrate with any DMS, providing secure document viewing and sharing that complement features like workflow mapping, versioning, and document import.

Employee Training on Security

Offer mandatory cybersecurity prevention training to employees throughout the organization, focusing on document security. Provide training on using secure tools to view, edit, and share documents inside and outside the company. Also, increase awareness about cyber threats, especially social engineering attacks that often exploit employees to access the bank’s system.

Secure Document Sharing Platforms

When sharing documents with external parties, only use secure third-party platforms. Check what security features that platform offers. Ideally, it should have end-to-end encryption, fine-grained access controls, and generous storage space. It should also have reliable performance so recipients can open or download files quickly.

Monitor for Suspicious Activity

Security monitoring should be an integral part of your overall security policy. Network security tools can be useful in detecting any unusual activity with documents stored on servers.

Maintain Updated Software

Ensure all software solutions deployed in the bank are up-to-date. Any security patches should be applied as soon as they’re released. This applies to firmware for on-premise hardware and devices and third-party software solutions.

Applicability of MST Services to Banks

MST eViewer solution is a comprehensive, secure document viewing and conversion solution used by financial organizations across the globe. It can integrate with proprietary or third-party enterprise software using exposed APIs, and provides organizations with the ability to better standardize and organize corporate documents across hundreds of file formats.

Here’s how banks can leverage MST’s solution to enhance document security:

  • Share monthly statements with customers for encrypted, password-protected viewing on desktop and mobile.
  • Convert document formats effortlessly for standardization across the organization.
  • Convert physical documents into searchable and editable digital files with OCR.
  • Redact sensitive data from financial statements or other documents when sharing them publicly.
  • Watermark confidential documents before sharing them.
  • Get digital signatures on documents from employees and customers, eliminating unnecessary paper trails.
  • Compare documents, including those with embedded objects and media, to detect alterations.
  • Make documents accessible for employees and/or customers with disabilities (WCAG 2.1 standard compliant).

Conclusion

Document security in banking ensures that no sensitive information is leaked and that cybersecurity and data privacy regulations are met. Cyberattacks and human errors can pose a range of problems, from reputational damage to financial penalties being imposed.

Ensuring the security of your organization’s sensitive documentation has never been more important and requires a solution that neatly integrates with all other elements of your security stack.

MST’s eViewer solution is one such technology that goes beyond document security, providing cutting-edge document viewing and conversion solutions that will not only keep your document management processes safe but also improve all aspects of your business’s interaction with digital documentation moving forward.

Learn how MST can benefit your organization today!

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