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African Bank’s mission is to be a retail bank offering a wide range of products and services that enable consumers across South Africa to borrow, save and insure. Guided by its mission to offer more value than expected, it is committed to innovation and operates from more than 360 branch locations, through its extensive contact centre and digitally through its website.
Naturally, email has become a very important business tool, one that is central to customer service delivery. However, electronic communication with customers creates risk, particularly at a time when new, targeted emails threats are constantly evolving.
Information Security Manager, Gary Desilla said: “We’re a financial institution and the South African Reserve Bank actually rates cyber security as the number one operational risk facing our sector, so there is always a big focus on the steps we are taking to tackle cyber threats.”
Until recently, an alliance by the banking sector to share intelligence regarding banking-related crimes, coupled with powerful email security from Mimecast, was enough to keep African Bank’s precious customer data safe and secure. However, the emergence and increasing prevalence of targeted threats like spear phishing and ransomware led Gary and his team to re-evaluate.
He explained: “The consequences of even one of these attacks getting through could be detrimental, both from a financial and a reputational point of view - we were receiving upwards of 100 emails containing malicious URLs per month as well as emails containing weaponised attachments – more often than not in the form of CVs.
“Mimecast was providing great protection against more traditional threats, but these targeted attacks are harder to defend against, and the remediation required when they do is significant and costly.”
It was clear to Gary and the team at African Bank that a specialist solution was required: “We needed something specifically designed to defend against these sophisticated attacks.”
As it happened, the ideal solution was easily available. Mimecast Targeted Threat Protection (TTP), an add-on to Mimecast’s core email security solution, offered both URL Protect and Attachment Protect – solutions that provide innovative defence against both malicious URLs and weaponised attachments delivered via email.
Gary commented: “Mimecast TTP didn’t require any software or hardware installation and simply needed to be switched on and configured; all of which could be done from the central administration console. All in all, deploying TTP was very easy.”
Despite its apparent simplicity, Mimecast TTP has proven itself a highly effective defence against targeted attacks.
Attachments, for instance, are now automatically sandboxed as they pass through the Mimecast secure email gateway, which helps to manage the threat of weaponised attachments. Meanwhile, every URL clicked on in emails is scanned and rewritten in real-time to protect against bad links and delayed exploits.
Gary said: “Malicious files in email are definitely targeted at legitimate users in the organisation and we see a lot of that being blocked. URL Protect is scanning around 1500 URLs every 30 days and defending against all manner of threats.”
“That’s where we’ve seen the real value so far. If we look at the ransomware and phishing attacks that have come in; most of the time we get a warning from other banks - but when we go and check our email, we find Mimecast has actually stopped the threat before we’ve even known about it.”
Another benefit of deploying Mimecast TTP has come in the form of improved user awareness of targeted email threats, and the ability to better direct awareness training.
Gary said: “TTP takes a lot of the operational pressure off the teams because users don’t need to check every link with IT before clicking. They know all links have been scanned and rewritten.
“It also reduces the need to carry out user awareness training. We do run awareness training of course, but we can see which users are misbehaving - which users are being warned and still clicking on links - which enables us to target those users specifically, which is a big benefit.”
Overall Gary has been delighted with the protection provided by Mimecast TTP and believes that African Bank has found a trusted partner in Mimecast; one which can help them exceed expectations in the financial sector by keeping their customers’ and employees’ data protected.
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