The new research by Accenture Security, '2021 Future Cyber Threats,' explores how threat actors leveraged COVID 19 to further exploit the financial sector at a time when global economies and individual livelihoods depend on the support of financial services. Building on last year’s report, it identifies five main threat themes:

  1. Supply chain attacks targeting essential software and services
  2. Cyber Fraud escalates as disruption opens the door to new avenues and actors
  3. Insider threat schemes flourish with remote work
  4. Extortion attacks advance destructive capabilities
  5. Emerging technologies continuing to reinvent the threat landscape

Threats to financial services were also the subject of a recent interview with Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. He laid out one possible troubling scenario: hackers paralyzing a major payment processor, compromising the flow of money between financial institutions and shutting down broad parts of the financial system. Bottom line, Powell considers cyberattacks to be the number one threat to the global financial system[1].

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Financial services companies are all too aware of the threats and are working diligently to combat them. But despite those efforts, money is still being siphoned off by cybercriminals—US$4.2B in 2020 alone, according to the FBI[2].

This is occurring in part because adversaries are becoming more sophisticated, breaching software supply chains and targeting cybersecurity vendors that organizations trust as reliable partners to keep them safe. They've also capitalized on COVID-19 concerns to cause breaches involving malicious or unwitting insiders. Even ransomware actors have become more destructive and brazen: They're now less likely to restore systems, even when paid.

Where do we go from here?

Our report, based on research by the Accenture Cyber Threat Intelligence (CTI) team, recommends that financial services organizations double down on time-tested mitigation strategies while also considering cutting-edge countermeasures. Much of the needed approach boils down to comprehensive defense and assuming a breach mindset.

Consider these five steps
  1. Know your operations: Model threats against your end-to-end value chain, taking full account of third-party risks.
  2. Strengthen defenses across people, process and technology. Encourage security leaders to actively demonstrate why security is critical to business strategy.
  3. Be agile to keep pace with new variants. Consider enhanced tactics to outmaneuver cyber criminals.
  4. Proactively collaborate so that everyone knows how to work together before, during and after an event.
  5. Plan for resilience by maintaining high standards of security hygiene and focusing on business and operational risk.

For specifics on addressing the new cyber threats in financial services, download the full report here.


Accenture Security

Accenture Security is a leading provider of end-to-end cybersecurity services, including advanced cyber defense, applied cybersecurity solutions and managed security operations. We bring security innovation, coupled with global scale and a worldwide delivery capability through our network of Advanced Technology and Intelligent Operations centers. Helped by our team of highly skilled professionals, we enable clients to innovate safely, build cyber resilience and grow with confidence.  Follow us @AccentureSecure on Twitter or visit us at

Accenture, the Accenture logo, and other trademarks, service marks, and designs are registered or unregistered trademarks of Accenture and its subsidiaries in the United States and in foreign countries. All trademarks are properties of their respective owners. All materials are intended for the original recipient only. The reproduction and distribution of this material is forbidden without express written permission from Accenture. The opinions, statements, and assessments in this report are solely those of the individual author(s) and do not constitute legal advice, nor do they necessarily reflect the views of Accenture, its subsidiaries, or affiliates. Given the inherent nature of threat intelligence, the content contained in this report is based on information gathered and understood at the time of its creation. It is subject to change. Accenture provides the information on an “as-is” basis without representation or warranty and accepts no liability for any action or failure to act taken in response to the information contained or referenced in this report.

Copyright © 2021 Accenture. All rights reserved.


[1] Cyber Attacks are the number-one threat to the global financial system, Fed Chair says, April 12, 2021, CNN Business,

[2] FBI 2020 Internet Crime Report, March 17, 2021, FBI News,




Howard Marshall

Managing Director – Accenture Security, Global Cyber Threat Intelligence Lead

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