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Businesses not taking cyber security seriously are undermining how important it is for growth. Today, data security covers all aspects of protecting our sensitive data held in various forms, such as personally identifiable information (PII), health records, intellectual property, industrial systems, critical infrastructure, governments and military information.
No one wants to be in the headlines for the wrong reasons. Ransomware attacks and data breaches have become too common news due to cybercriminals finding internet crime a viable opportunity. It is equally important to know how and what to do after a data breach, as much it is to know how to protect sensitive data.
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Gone are the days of anti-virus and firewalls when information security was the play for an IT team. Like operational, financial, legal risks, data security must be prioritised as part of the risk management regime.
Emerging technologies such as IoT, 5G, cloud computing, AI, ML, digital and information technology etc., have integrated the necessity of the internet and captured cybercriminals’ attention. The previous years have seen various data breaches and cyber attacks that have forced every industry to think about IT security concerns.
Every enterprise must understand the importance of cyber security irrespective of their business domain. This article explores what information security is, its importance and how and who can ensure the security of the business assets.
What is cyber security?
Cyber security is the process of protecting an individual or organisation’s systems, networks, devices, information (digital and electronic data) and overall cybersphere from unauthorised access by ensuring the CIA (Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability) of data.
It is about protecting critical assets from internal and external unauthorised or illegal access that can in any way compromise the CIA triad. However, cyber security is a little bit different from information security, but both work on the three core security principles of information security.
Confidentiality: This is the first principle that commits to control access to information or object. It focuses on the protection of every type of unauthorised access.
It can be executed by considering robust security mechanisms such as passwords, multi-factor authentication (MFA) etc.
Integrity: The second principle, integrity, refers to authenticity and accuracy. It assures that the data or object remains the same in transit, and no one can modify or change except the authorised person.
It can be accomplished by integrating strong cryptographies, hashing and encryption mechanisms and error detection software.
Availability: The third principle concerns that the information or resource remains uninterrupted and accessible to the authorised user. It delivers data approachability to the authorised user whenever they need it.
It can be achieved by reducing denial of services attacks, boosting hardware, software and computer maintenance, up-gradation and optimisation.
Why is cyber security important for a business?
The growing information technology and digital transformation have shifted a lot of businesses online. At the moment, the internet, computers, smartphones, and IoT have become an indispensable part of almost every company and everyday life. From e-banking to virtual education, everything is utilising the internet realm and grabbing the attention of cybercriminals to the vulnerable points to gain entrance and my important information.
Ensuring data security and privacy to the enterprise is good cyber hygiene and security requirements by law. Essentially every organisation has a significant share of intellectual property, data, particularly PII, trade secrets, finances, customer personal information like email address, contact information and other sensitive business information. It must be protected from unnecessary exposure because if a potential attacker gets their hands on such data, the effects of losing this information would be disastrous. The outcomes of cyber theft, data security attacks, and a data breach can significantly affect the company’s reputation and customer trust. It may worsen in the case of personal data or identity theft. The organisation would incur legal requirements under a DPA or GDPR fine and penalties of up to €20 million to 4% of annual revenue.
Regulatory bodies tighten the noose around reckless disclosures and a lack of security and privacy measures around consumer data. Government agencies and regulatory authorities have initiated this new wave in recent years with GDPR in EU, UK GDPR, Data Protection Act (DPA) 2018, CCPA (California), PIPEDA (Canada) and numerous other privacy laws.
At a high level, all of these regulations are aiming to enforce the following basic principles:
- Notify data breach incidents to the government or local regulatory authorities (for example, ICO)
- Ask for user consent before processing their information
- Data anonymisation (that’s anonymised in the real sense, without reversible methods that could be used to link/refer back to individuals identity information)
- Failure to act attracts fines in line with the privacy laws.
All such factors make it important for businesses to understand the role of cyber security strategy and security systems policies in their annual plan, including small to mid-size or even large enterprises, to secure important information.
How to ensure cyber security in a business?
To ensure cyber security effectiveness, it is important to learn what cyber risks and challenges companies suffer.
Understanding the security landscape: The frequently changing nature of IT security threats and risks make it the most difficult for many organisations to cope with the proactive security approach. Also, a lot of personal information, sensitive data and assets need continuous protection from identity theft and misuse. Thus, often it becomes tough for the organisation to defend against known-unknown information technology threats and 0-day vulnerabilities.
Risk Management: Many organisations do not have a risk assessment or management plan for their sensitive data security. They fail to realise the threats and vulnerabilities they might have from the internal, external and co-related environment and third parties.
Application and Infrastructure Security: The risk emanating from the vulnerabilities present into any part of the application, technology and infrastructure’s end-point dramatically impacts the overall organisation. The negligence of low vulnerabilities imposes a critical-high impact on the continuity of business.
Business Continuity Plan: A business continuity plan is a strategy made up specially to make the organisation reduce the breach impact in a cyber attack, natural disaster and other mishappenings. In the absence of disaster recovery and business continuity plans, organisations suffer a considerable loss, sometimes more than the actual breach’s cost.
Lack of Security Awareness: The absence of security awareness is still a significant challenge that most businesses suffer. Many organisations lack security concepts and their importance in this digital information age. Therefore, it becomes challenging for them to comprehend the event in case of a cyber breach.
Once the organisation gets known about cyber risks, it is easier to look out for specific security issues to ensure cyber security in the overall business space. Here are a few ways that assist in establishing a well secure cyber environment.
Implement security frameworks and standards: Standards and frameworks enhance the functionalities and organisation’s commitment to data security. They both define the metric to manage and control security resources within the company. They also provide a set of rules, guidelines, and steps to protect personal and other data while making decisions to meet legal compliance and have cost-effective security controls on the important end-point or asset.
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Risk Management and Incident Recovery Plan: Risk management and incident recovery plan are important proactive security strategies that help the organisation to contain the breaches section and minimise the loss. This helps an organisation be prepared for any futuristic events and how to react in such cases to ensure that the critical elements are operational in the quickest manner possible.
Employees’ awareness and training: Investing money in high-cost technology or high-end security solutions would never replace human negligence. Cyber security awareness of employees is a crucial element to deliver the change in the cyber security culture of an organisation. It is vital to deliver user education for employees to establish a security culture in the companies and help employees tackle social engineering attempts.
Enhance security monitoring: Due to covid-19, many businesses moved to remote work, and still, many people and companies are working virtually. It is critical to monitor the ingress and egress network traffic to detect irregular behaviours and suspicious events.
Use Firewall, anti-malware and anti-virus solutions: To ensure the security of endpoints, it is essential to deploy a perimeter and host firewall to prevent threats from entering the organisation’s network and exploiting endpoints. Besides this, enhanced protection capabilities by installing anti-viruses and anti-malware solutions can help remove and protect files, systems etc.
Manage strict authentication and authorisation: The threat arising from internal security deficiencies are as essential to mitigate as the external threats. Unauthorised access can help in obtaining privilege to other data and systems. It is crucial to control access and put vigorous security checks like employees’ MFA, strong passwords, awareness and other information security policies, etc. So no unauthorised person can guess or brute-force.
Third-party security assessments: Writing security policies and implementing processes ensures that all the implemented policies work is another. Therefore, it is important to perform third-party validation exercises such as penetration testing on systems, applications, devices and other assets, including people. This would help to identify the vulnerabilities, hidden threats and mitigate the risks to improve the security posture of the entire organisation. Similarly, if your business or organisation has out-sourced or shared information with third parties, a cyber risk assessment would help you understand the risks.
10 steps to cyber security by NCSC is a great starting point that ensures coverage across an organisation.
Who is responsible for cyber security?
When it comes to being accountable for security in the organisation, the management, including board members, CEO, CTO, and CISO, are liable. Nevertheless, cyber security is not the sole responsibility of the security team; instead, shared responsibility and associated with every person from A-level to C-level executives and employees of the workplace and the organisation.
Although the senior officers have to oversee the organisation’s management and policies, it is challenging to implement cyber security threats mitigation or resiliency plan into the business consideration. The apparent reason that catalyses the absence of cyber security measures and breaches is the collaboration gap. Usually, CEOs, CFOs, and board members are non-technical personnel. It is the main struggle for the security team to translate them, that the security and businesses’ operations go hand-in-hand for secure culture in the company.
Many organisations do not invest in cyber security until they encounter any incidents – be it be an attack, breach, leaks or another form of cyber security adverse impact. With the evolving attack techniques and procedures, it is more important than ever that employees and clients who have direct or indirect access to the company’s critical assets are aware of potential threats and have a clear understanding of how to secure, avoid and manage them.
Get in touch to discuss your security concerns, security strategy or any other challenges around the subject.