The current era, where all data is digital, the threats of fraud, breach and data sprawl are more of a reality than ever.
In these times, organizations not only take a hit because of the breached data and cyber threats, but also are heavily fined under global privacy regulations. These privacy regulations are in place to encourage security operations within organizations to protect their data from malicious intent.
Not only on a monetary level but the damage this does to a company’s reputation can negatively affect the organization’s capacity to continue business with suppliers and clients due to a lack of trust. This leaves uncertainty and a possible collapse within the organization. Shareholders are now demanding that the information security should be dealt with by the upper management and CEOs should be held accountable for the data security measures.
Given all these points, this article will talk about five most important things any CEO should know regarding their organization’s data security.
1. Know the scope of your data inventory
The first step towards security is knowing what kind of data is present within your system. The first step towards this is to create a comprehensive data inventory of the company’s data. The next step is to organize this data into data sets that clearly define content, licenses and sources of data, as well as other information regarding the data.
It is important to remember that outdated softwares and hardware components leave a backdoor threat into your system for hackers just as new additions present unknown vulnerabilities. To curb this risk, the CEO must implement an IT asset management policy that can be used as a guide in future company audits. This makes follow ups with the IT team more to the point and stays away from vague answers.
2. Know the data inventory chain
A CEO does not need to know every technical detail that goes into his system, but it is crucial that he/she knows how to direct the ones who are charged with this responsibility. In order to do that, there needs to be a working data inventory policy. Once this inventory is compiled the following questions should be addressed:
- What data do you store?
- Where in the system is it stored?
- Who has access and levels of sharing?
- Why do you need certain data?
Organizations store critical data such as IPs (Intellectual property) and PII within their system. This data should be clearly identified because if exposed, they provide the easiest route for hackers into the company’s database. This makes it paramount that the critical data is securely stored, preferably in segmented storage in a trusted network with restricted access.
3. How well is your system protection implemented?
A CEO should be well-versed with how the IT team is securing the data within the organization.Ask pertinent questions from your IT team to reinforce the efficacy of the measures taken and how prepared your organization is for hostile incidents.
The problem here lies with the constant evolution of attacks and hackers, which is why the CEO should have a proactive approach rather than a reactive approach. This means ongoing evaluation of internal security capacity with the goal of updating wherever and whenever necessary.
Gerard Stokes says, “One worrying thing for any CEO is that it generally takes about 200 days from breach to discovery and a further 60 days after to mitigate the invasion fully. That is practically nine months the company’s crucial data is in unauthorized hands!’’
A CEO should plan ahead to mitigate any risks before they even occur. This means being active 24/7, using only trusted resources for your business needs and outsource data to trusted partners.
4. Audit your security systems
A major step towards a reliable security system is the continuous testing of the system’s efficacy. Following are some key points that a CEO must take into account when running a internal system audit
- A CEO should ask for regular network reports, to assess the information collected in normal usage to isolate and deal with anomalies that could be pointers to a potential threat. These reports can help you understand internal functions of the business which can lead to better management decisions
- Out of data softwares and hardwares can be prone to breach. Make sure your hardware and software assets are operating within the recommended lifecycle.
- Frequently review your asset inventory to monitor what needs to be decommissioned.
- Upgrade your hardware and network software to achieve efficient operation with current software versions.
- Ask your employees to use a VPN, antivirus and other necessary tools to ensure digital privacy.
- Implement alternative measures to act as a cushion against sudden attacks and possible disruption.
- Train employees on the proper use of resources to avoid unintended security breaches.
5. Assess your risk exposure
Cyberwarfare is an inevitable truth and a CEO must be prepared beforehand in order to mitigate the damage. Implementing a preemptive approach towards security is advised but there should also be a contingency plan should the organization be met with an attack. A CEO can focus on the following points when preparing a cybersecurity risk assessment.
- Itemize likely cyber threats to your company in regard to the type of business activities engaged in.
- Analyze vulnerabilities in both internal and external systems.
- Evaluate the likelihood of a breach and quantify the damage.
- Stay prepared with continuous assessment of threat vectors to preempt hostile invasion.
No data is safe from a cyberattack. In the digital era, a cyberattack is an eventuality rather than a possibility. In these times, it is important for senior decision makers to implement preemptive measures to mitigate the threat as much as possible, as well as contingency plans in case the organization is met with a cyberattack. You can not prevent your organization from a cyberattack, but you can save it from a devastating end. A CEO should be the torch bearer in this fight against cyber threats and protect their organization from a catastrophic result.
About the author: Anas Baig
With a passion for working on disruptive products, Anas Baig is currently working as a Product Lead at the Silicon Valley based company – Securiti.ai. He holds a degree of Computer Science from Iqra University and specializes in Information Security & Data Privacy.
(SecurityAffairs – hacking, cyber threats)