In today’s digital age, sound cybersecurity is critical for businesses of all sizes. According to the 2022 Cost of a Data Breach Report by IBM, cybersecurity incidents cost companies an average of $4.35 million per incident. As organizations increasingly rely on digital tools and data to grow and compete in their respective markets, they also face an ever-growing range of security threats that can cause significant damage to their operations and reputation.
Three Steps To Safeguarding Your Security Goals
Unless you want to donate millions of dollars to such less-than-worthy causes, it’s important to take steps now to ensure your security goals align with your business’ growth objectives. These steps include:
1. Review resources with sensitive access.
First things first, you should review all resources with access to sensitive information. This includes not only your own internal systems but also those of your vendors and subprocessors. Gaps or vulnerabilities in these systems create opportunities for cybercriminals to exploit your data, causing significant damage to your business.
To conduct your review, create a data flow map outlining the inputs and outputs of sensitive information across your entire network. This will help you identify potential areas of weakness that may require additional attention.
Next, conduct vendor security assessments to review the security requirements of your vendors. These assessments help you determine whether your vendors have appropriate security controls in place to protect sensitive data.
Conducting a risk analysis on all vendors, subprocessors and other systems with confidential access is also essential. This analysis should evaluate security incidents’ likelihood and potential impact and help you prioritize remediation efforts.
2. Recognize your regulatory obligations.
It’s vital to fully understand all laws, regulations and contractual obligations that apply to your operations. Failure to comply with these requirements can lead to legal battles, financial penalties and other consequences that can hinder your business’ growth.
For example, your company may be required to comply with regulations such as HIPAA, GDPR, CCPA, FERPA and others, depending on the industry in which you operate and the type of data you handle. Even though there are no certifications or audits conducted for most of these frameworks, failure to comply can result in serious consequences that may impact business growth.
Compliance failures can also result in significant financial penalties, such as the $5 billion fine levied against Facebook by the FTC in 2019 for its handling of user data. And nobody wants to pay fines, except perhaps, Elon Musk. To ensure compliance, build a complete list of the laws, regulations and contractual obligations that apply to your company and develop a plan to meet the requirements. This could include appointing a compliance officer, conducting regular audits and assessments and providing employee training on relevant laws and regulations.
Compliance is an ongoing process, and you must remain vigilant in staying up to date with any changes in laws and regulations that may affect your operations. By understanding and meeting your legal and regulatory obligations, your company can ensure the security protocols are comprehensive enough to grow with the business while helping avoid costly legal battles and reputational damage.
3. Conduct regular penetration tests.
Although compliance can help your organization become more secure, gaps often remain in companies’ security postures for cybercriminals to exploit. Consider conducting a penetration test against all inbound/outbound data sources to address this issue.
A penetration test, or pen test, is a simulated attack on a computer system, network or web application to identify vulnerabilities a real attacker could exploit. The test is typically conducted by a third-party security company, and its results can provide valuable insights into areas of weakness that must be addressed.
The importance of conducting a penetration test can’t be overstated. Hackers are constantly looking for new ways to breach security systems, and a single successful attack can result in significant financial loss and reputational damage. Help protect your data, customers and bottom line by identifying and addressing vulnerabilities before an attack occurs.
Statistics show that 75% of organizations conduct penetration testing as part of their cybersecurity strategy. However, a pen test shouldn’t be a one-time event. At the very minimum, businesses should be conducting pen tests at least twice a year, but best practice is to implement it into your software development life cycle so that anytime you make changes or enhancements to your app or software, you know where there are vulnerabilities. Additionally, the findings from the test can be used to inform future security planning and investment decisions.
Penetration testing can be done internally or through a reputable third-party company that has the expertise and experience needed to identify potential areas of exploitation that may go unnoticed otherwise. If you’re going to hire an outside penetration testing company, here are some questions you should ask to ensure your data is secure.
- Are your services outsourced overseas? Where will my data reside?
- Can you elaborate on your approach to penetration testing?
- What are your certifications or credentials?
- Do you provide any feedback on remediation after the testing is complete?
- What is your customer base? What kind of experience do you have with our industry or specific types of systems?
- What tools or technologies do you use to conduct penetration tests?
- How do you ensure the confidentiality and security of the information you obtain during testing?
A Challenge For All Businesses
As organizations increasingly rely on digital tools and data to grow and compete in their respective markets, cybersecurity remains a challenge for every company. To safeguard against threats, review your security goals regularly and take the necessary steps to continue growing securely. Develop a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy that’s updated frequently to address new and emerging threats. Prioritize cybersecurity, take proactive measures to protect your data and focus on growing and expanding your operations with confidence.
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