Thanks to advances in technology and increases in cyber threats, operating a business is becoming more complex. Nearly every day, it seems there is a new report of a data breach or information security risk. News of mobile device and app vulnerabilities and repetitive security patch updates for web browsers are examples.
IT leaders and departments are kept on their toes, anticipating what’s next and defending company data against threats.
Failure to protect sensitive information can have severe consequences, such as loss of revenue and reputation. While most business leaders don’t completely ignore the need for information security, many can benefit from strengthening their measures. Taking extra steps can help prevent an organization from becoming the next data breach headline. Below are four ways to boost a company’s information security measures.
1. Implement governance, risk, and compliance solutions.
Information security methods might help mitigate external and internal threats.
However, these measures start with internal processes, technical resources, and business practices. Governance, risk, and compliance, or GRC, is a systemic approach that considers how processes, resources, and practices impact information security.
With a GRC tool, business leaders can see which internal procedures create security vulnerabilities. In some cases, weak technical resources may be to blame. But implementing anti-malware programs isn’t always going to keep data secure if employees aren’t trained on phishing tactics.
Likewise, practices that don’t limit physical access to server rooms or network access to sensitive resources leave data wide open.
Both situations represent opportunities for managers and employees to work together to close information security loopholes. However, leaders can’t help close the loopholes they don’t know about. GRC solutions do more than standard cybersecurity tools by increasing visibility and transparency into all aspects of a business’s operations.
Governance, risk, and compliance tools help break down the internal data silos that can lead to information security failures.
2. Perform security audits.
Security audits are a way to test a business’s information security measures.
While audits don’t necessarily prevent data breaches or the exposure of sensitive data, they help reveal where vulnerabilities exist. Audits also uncover whether employees know and follow the organization’s info security practices.
For example, say a network policy automatically prompts employees to change their passwords every 90 days. The company has also put all staff members through password management training and reviewed strong password practices. However, a security audit might show employees still use duplicate logins for different programs and write down passwords. As a result, the business could implement password manager applications and additional training.
Security audit experts recommend companies perform such reviews at least once a year through an outside agency. Using a third party helps remove internal biases and brings more objective perspectives to the table.
Yet experts caution that the results of security audits are static. They show how a company’s security measures are holding up at a specific time. Significant internal changes or operational shifts may necessitate more frequent audits.
3. Manage data access and permissions.
Not every employee needs access to each piece of information stored on a company’s network.
For instance, marketing staff will get little use out of IT’s documentation on network configurations. Strategically thinking about who needs access to what can prevent data loss and unauthorized intrusions.
Part of managing data access and permissions also includes mapping out who should perform various functions and activities. Is it appropriate for all staff to download and install programs and applications? Or should device-level admin permissions be limited to IT staff? Sometimes a mix of the two approaches may be most appropriate. Standard applications like PDF readers might be allowed for regular employees, but other programs may require IT’s intervention.
Managing access to information can extend to printer use, network folders, and what employees can do with stored data. Some staff members might only need view permissions, meaning they can see the data but can’t do anything with it. Moving, deleting, or saving those files isn’t possible unless they have full permissions.
Access restrictions can prevent data loss from employee errors and align data management practices with staff members’ job responsibilities.
4. Document action plans.
Business teams can falter when they’re forced to shoot from the hip. Not having a documented action plan for information security incidents means employees will be scrambling on impulse.
If a data breach or network intrusion occurs, staff may freeze or waste time figuring out how to best respond. Their tactics might also be inadequate and require extensive backtracking and a painful review of lessons learned.
Research shows that 43% of small to medium-sized businesses do not have a cybersecurity plan. This creates the potential for further data loss and information security vulnerabilities after the fact.
Say a systems engineer discovers suspicious network configuration changes. While that employee might reverse those changes, they could fail to report them or perform a deeper investigation.
With a documented action plan, those oversights are less likely to happen. A more thorough analysis could uncover neglected security patch updates or problems with a vendor’s network permissions. Addressing the issue’s root cause rather than one of its symptoms will mitigate future threats.
Without documentation that addresses holistic possibilities, employees might not be aware of all the steps they should take.
Increasing Information Security Measures
Maintaining a tight lid on sensitive data and effectively managing cybersecurity threats are musts for companies of all sizes.
But as internal and external environments become more complex, keeping information secure is a significant challenge. Businesses need systemic or holistic approaches more than ever.
GRC solutions, security audits, appropriate data access permissions, and documented action plans are effective measures to add to the information security toolbox.
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