Working Towards DORA: Strengthening Cybersecurity in Financial Institutions

cyber security small business (1)

Enhancing Operational Resilience in the Digital Era

In today’s interconnected world, where technology plays a central role in financial operations, ensuring the security and resilience of financial institutions is of utmost importance. The Digital Operations Resilience Act (DORA) is a significant initiative, both at the European and international levels, aimed at strengthening cybersecurity in the financial services sector and addressing broader operational risks. As part of a broader European strategy for data, DORA focuses on data protection, fundamental rights, safety, and cybersecurity as essential prerequisites for a society empowered by the use of data.

Regulation EU 2022/2554 (DORA) and Directive EU 2022/2556 (DORA Amending Directive) will enter into force on 16 January 2023. As a regulation, DORA will be directly effective from 17 January 2025 without transposing measures.

Importance of DORA for Financial Institutions

Financial institutions are high-value targets for cybercriminals due to the sensitive information they handle and the potential financial impact of successful attacks. DORA provides a comprehensive framework that financial institutions can adopt to enhance their cybersecurity posture and operational resilience. By aligning with DORA’s principles and guidelines, financial institutions can proactively protect themselves against cyber threats and minimise the potential damage caused by cybersecurity incidents.

Key Security Controls for Financial Institutions

Implementing the right security controls is crucial for financial institutions to meet the requirements of DORA. Here are five critical controls that financial institutions should focus on:

  1. ICT Incident Response Plan

An incident response plan is a vital component of cybersecurity preparedness. Financial institutions should develop comprehensive plans that include regular fire drill exercises to simulate various security incidents. By practicing their response strategies, financial institutions can minimise losses and effectively manage cybersecurity incidents. Incident response plans should also include contact details for the entire incident response team to ensure a swift and coordinated response when an incident occurs.

  1. Hardened Architecture

Financial institutions should prioritise the hardening of their operational technology (OT) environments. This involves removing unnecessary network access points, enforcing strong policy controls at the IT/OT interface, and mitigating high-risk vulnerabilities. A defensible architecture forms the foundation for a secure and resilient infrastructure.

  1. Network Visibility and Monitoring

To protect critical assets, financial institutions must have a comprehensive understanding of their entire network environment. This includes visibility into all IT, OT, mobile, and Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD). Continuous monitoring and tracking of assets enable institutions to detect and respond to potential threats promptly.

  1. Secure Remote Access

With remote work becoming increasingly prevalent, secure remote access is essential for financial institutions. Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a key method to ensure secure access. If MFA is not feasible, alternative controls such as jump hosts with focused monitoring can be considered. Secure remote access measures help protect sensitive financial systems from unauthorised access.

  1. Risk-Based Vulnerability Management

Financial institutions should proactively identify vulnerabilities in their systems and develop a comprehensive vulnerability management program. While patching vulnerabilities in IT systems may be relatively straightforward, shutting down critical operations can incur significant costs. Effective vulnerability management programs require timely awareness of key vulnerabilities specific to the environment, accurate risk ratings, and alternative mitigation strategies to minimise exposure while ensuring business continuity.

How CommSec Can Help?

At CommSec, we understand the unique security challenges faced by financial institutions. Our suite of services and expertise can assist organisations in their journey towards DORA compliance. Here’s how we can support financial institutions in each of the areas mentioned:

Key Security Controls for Financial Institutions Service / Solution
ICT Incident Response Plan – CISO-as-a-Service: Our CISO-as-a-Service provides guidance in developing comprehensive incident response plans, including fire drill exercises, and coordinated response strategies.
Hardened Architecture IT Inventory and Network Hardening: CommSec offers comprehensive visibility into the network environment, including IT, OT, mobile, and BYOD assets, ensuring continuous monitoring and threat detection. We also conduct Network hardening to close off any unused network ports and connections to minize attacks from unauthorised users.
Network Visibility and Monitoring – Our Managed Security Operations Centre (MSOC+) offers round-the-clock monitoring, threat detection, and incident response capabilities. With our SOC as a Service, financial institutions can leverage our expertise and advanced tools to proactively detect and respond to cyber threats.
Secure Remote Access – SASE Solution: Our Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) solution provides secure remote access, including multi-factor authentication (MFA) and alternative controls for secure connections.
Risk-Based Vulnerability Management – Vulnerability Management Service (CheckScan+): CommSec assists in proactively identifying vulnerabilities, providing timely awareness, accurate risk ratings, and alternative mitigation strategies to ensure effective vulnerability management.

A Comprehensive Approach to DORA Compliance

Working towards DORA compliance is a complex and integrated process that requires a combination of security controls, risk management, business continuity planning, information security, and quality assurance. Financial institutions can leverage the expertise and services offered by CommSec to strengthen their cybersecurity posture and operational resilience.

By adopting the recommended security controls, including incident response planning, defensible architecture, network visibility and monitoring, secure remote access, and risk-based vulnerability management, financial institutions can enhance their ability to withstand cyber threats and minimise the potential impact of security incidents.

CommSec is ready to assist financial institutions in their journey towards DORA compliance. We offer tailored assessments, roadmap development, and ongoing support to help organisations align with DORA’s principles and enhance their overall cybersecurity posture.

Embrace the future of secure financial operations with CommSec and join us in building a resilient and secure digital landscape.

Contact our solutions team to get started.



What is Operational Resiliance in the Finance Sector?

Operational resilience is the ability of firms, financial market infrastructures and the financial sector as a whole to prevent, adapt and respond to, recover and learn from operational disruption. The Central Bank of Ireland considers operational resilience to be the ability of a firm, and the financial services sector as a whole, to identify and prepare for, respond and adapt to, recover and learn from an operational disruption.

Who does the DORA Act apply to?

DORA applies to a wide range of financial entities regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland. This includes credit institutions, electronic money institutions, investment firms, insurance undertakings and re-insurance undertakings.

What are the key requirements of DORA?

DORA will impose a range of ICT-related requirements on financial entities. The key requirements include:

  • Financial services organisations should assess if their current frameworks and processes meet the expanded regulation and plan accordingly to respond to the key areas.
  • Information and Communication Technology (ICT) risk management
  • ICT–related incident management, classification and reporting
  • Digital operational resilience testing
  • Managing of ICT third-party risk (including the introduction of an oversight framework for critical ICT third-party service providers).