Organizations must periodically review cybersecurity policies to ensure customer data protection

The most important security that an organization should consider in today’s world is cybersecurity. Because we live in a connected world, the risk that organizations face from network-enabled cyberattacks is extremely high. Furthermore, the spread of technologies like cloud computing and IoT pose additional security risks to organizations. Already, a large percentage of organizations rely on these technologies as part of their IT infrastructure. As the number of connected devices grows, the potential for cyber attacks will only increase.

Most large businesses in the US take cybersecurity very seriously. According to reports, 94% of large businesses in the US have a cybersecurity policy in place. Over 87% of these companies created their cybersecurity policies at least 3 years ago. However, the scenario is not quite the same with global organizations. More than two-thirds of global organizations do not have a formal cybersecurity policy in place.

Every organization in today’s world should take cybersecurity seriously. While organizational cybersecurity offers great benefits to an organization and its employees, it also helps protect customers. According to a recent report released by PWC, 69% of all consumers believe that organizations are vulnerable to cyber attacks and hacks. However, 72% of consumers also feel that businesses are better equipped than the government to protect them. Any organization that has an effective cybersecurity policy in place can build a solid reputation and grow its customer base.

Before we take a look at how organizations can create effective cybersecurity policies, let’s take a closer look at the term ‘cybersecurity’ itself.

What is cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity is a term that denotes the measures taken to protect internet-connected systems and prevent leakage of data due to cyber attacks. Cybersecurity includes protecting both hardware as well as software systems.

Enterprises make use of a combination of physical security and cybersecurity measures in order to prevent unauthorized access to their computerized systems and data centres.

Cybersecurity is a broad term which encompasses several elements of security through an information system. These elements include:

  • Application Security
  • Network Security
  • Information Security
  • Operational Security
  • Business Continuity Planning / Disaster Recovery
  • End-user Education

Traditionally, organizations would focus their resources on the most crucial system components in order to protect themselves from the biggest known threats. However, this creates a scope of leaving certain components unprotected and undefended against lesser known and newer risks.

The biggest threat that cybersecurity faces today is that security risks are constantly evolving. Modern day hackers make use of new, sophisticated tools and techniques to exploit weaknesses and gain unauthorized access to an organization’s data systems. As such, organizations should always look to adopt a more proactive and adaptive approach to cybersecurity.

Types of cybersecurity threats

The process of identifying new technologies and security trends to come up with threat intelligence is a big challenge. However, it is absolutely necessary for organizations to protect their data from cybersecurity threats or cyber threats.

Cybersecurity threats can be broadly classified into the following types:

  • Phishing: Phishing is one of the most common types of cyber attacks. It involves sending out fraudulent emails that closely resemble emails from a reputable source. The intention behind phishing attacks is to steal sensitive data about a user such as credit card information or login credentials.
  • Malware: Malware refers to any program or file that can be used to steal information from a user’s computer. Malware can take up many forms including viruses, worms, spyware and Trojan horses, among others.
  • Ransomware: Ransomware is a special type of malware through which attackers lock users out of their computer system files. Attackers then demand a ransom or payment in order to decrypt the system and unlock files for the users.
  • Social Engineering: Social engineering is a type of cyber attack which relies on human interaction. Through social engineering, attackers trick users by making them break security procedures. This offers the attackers access to sensitive information that is otherwise protected.

What does cybersecurity prevent?

Cybersecurity measures can help an organization prevent cyber attacks, identity theft and data breaches. Cybersecurity essentially aids risk management for an organization.

Organizations that have a good sense of network security and effective incident response plans stand a better chance of preventing and mitigating the risk of cyber attacks. This includes defending the personal information of end users, creating guards against data theft or data loss and scanning network computers regularly for malicious code. Organizations that do so share a deeper relationship with their customers based on trust.

Customers and organizational cybersecurity

While most consumers do feel that businesses are better equipped at protecting their data than the government, the reality is that consumers trust businesses less than they did in the past. According to the PWC report, only 12% of all consumers trust businesses more than they did a year ago, while only 17% trust businesses more than they did a decade ago.

More than 85% of consumers won’t do business with an organization if they have concerns about security practices. Only a mere 10% of consumers feel that they have control over the personal information that they provide to businesses.

Organizations must look to provide transparency and control to their customers. Only then can an organization hope to grow and succeed in today’s world.

How can organizations protect their customers from cyber attacks?

There are a number of things that organizations can do to protect their customers from cyber attacks. Here are some key areas that organizations should focus on to minimize cybersecurity threats.

 Build a security culture

First and foremost, an organization must look to build a security culture to keep itself protected from malicious attacks. Creating an organizational culture focused on data security can help train employees and prevent data breaches.

To create a security culture, organizations should make security training awareness mandatory for all employees. While the training should focus on the different types of cyber attacks and social engineering attacks, it should also teach employees how to thwart these attacks. In addition to having advanced technologies in place, organizations should also setup test attacks to identify employee behaviours. Only when employees know how to protect themselves will the risk of cyber attacks decrease.

 Implement a cybersecurity policy

Every organization must implement a cybersecurity policy in order to protect itself from cyber attacks. A robust and effective cybersecurity policy should address the following elements:

  • How to detect cyber attacks
  • Guidelines on managing passwords
  • Guidelines on proper internet usage
  • Standards on how to protect sensitive data
  • Standards for installing software patches and updates

It is not enough to simply create a cybersecurity policy and have it in place. Studies have demonstrated that over 90% of employees across organizations violate cybersecurity policies. This is mostly because these employees don’t know the importance of cybersecurity policies. Organizations must communicate and conduct proper training to ensure that employees are equipped and always on the lookout for potential cyber attacks.

 Use VPN / Unified Threat Management

Organizations should use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to offer a secure connection to employees who work remotely. A VPN encrypts network connections and prevents anyone on the same wireless network from intercepting traffic. Most business-grade firewalls also include VPN capabilities.

In addition to VPNs, organizations can even go further and implement Unified Threat Management, which is a more comprehensive approach to security. Unified Threat Management includes multiple security functions within a single platform such as firewalls, network intrusion detection and prevention, VPN, anti-virus tools, content filtering, gateway anti-spam, data loss prevention, load balancing and reporting.

 Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery

It is estimated that a single hour of downtime costs small businesses $8000 and large business as much as $700,000 on an average. These numbers are huge, and they provide enough reason for organizations to have a business continuity and disaster recovery plan in place.

Organizations that depend on system availability and uptime to serve customers should seek automated failover solutions and redundant internet connections. Such business continuity and disaster recovery measures can protect the bottom line of an organization to a significant extent.

Essential Technology Services

Every organization should adopt some necessary practices to protect itself from potential threats. These essential technology services include the likes of wireless security, network monitoring, anti-virus and firewall protection, among others.

While most organizations make use of firewalls, many of them do not utilize the full potential of a firewall. Firewalls are the foundation for protecting networks from unauthorized access. Business class firewalls can also provide additional functions such as blocking unproductive and dangerous websites, optimizing bandwidth consumption, creating detailed reports of websites visited by employees and other information that impacts productivity.

Seeking the help of managed security service providers is something that many organizations do. With a managed service provider monitoring and updating network security on a constant basis, an organization can focus on improving productivity and efficiency.

Data Encryption

In order to ensure maximum protection of data, organizations must encrypt data – both when data is at rest and also when data is in transit. Data encryption can help organizations make the information unreadable if accessed through improper means.

In today’s world, every organization must have processes in place to ensure that sensitive devices are always encrypted. Any emails or files that are sent should also be encrypted always.

Manage Mobile Devices

Another area where organizations should focus on when it comes to security is the mobile devices of employees. At the very least, managing mobile devices should look to protect passwords and other sensitive data that is present on employees’ devices. This will reduce the risk of data theft in case a device is compromised.

These days, most organizations work on a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) basis. While this saves an organization a lot of money, it also presents big issues related to security and privacy. Whether it is through security policies, training or apps, organizations should look to ensure that employees don’t end up sharing confidential information.

Create Effective Password Policies

Every organization should ensure to have effective password policies in place. Even the loss of a single password can have dramatic consequences. To prevent this, organizations should enforce strict password requirements.

Organizations should ensure that employees follow password best practices measures such as a minimum of 8 characters, a common password ban list and no password hints. In addition, passwords should require unique passphrases with special characters. There should also be a policy in place to limit the number of consecutive incorrect password attempts. Organizations should also consider using two-factor authentication to provide better security.

Active Security Monitoring

At all points of time, organizations should ensure that their networks are actively being monitored for security threats. One effective strategy that provides a centralized view of network data is SIEM (Security Information and Event Management). A SIEM also consolidates logs to provide a clear picture of what’s happening in an organization’s network.

Organizations should consider the services of Managed Security Service Providers for 24/7 network monitoring. Working with Managed Security Service Providers also works out to be more affordable than implementing SIEM.

Data Security Policy

Finally, every organization should ensure to have a proper data security policy in place. This data security policy should define how to transfer or share data in a secure manner. The policy should also define restricted methods to prevent the use of unsafe or unsupported applications or services.

An organization should document its data security policy and ensure that it is communicated to employees. The policy should be enforced and also reviewed and updated on a periodic basis.

Battling cybersecurity threats is something that organizations need to do at all times. With threats on the rise, every organization must review its cybersecurity policies from time to time. One of the best ways to handle cybersecurity is to seek the help of Managed Security Service Providers. While this will allow an organization to protect customer data, it also allows an organization to focus on its core business. Also, using the services of Managed Security Service Providers also works to be more affordable as compared to handling cybersecurity on one’s own.