Five reasons why you should be considering a cyber security audit this Autumn

Cyber security is a hot topic right now, as it has been consistently over the past few years as technologies have continued to improve. Unfortunately, for many businesses, there is no “silver bullet” solution to close the gaps in your data security and compliance.

Both require time, education, planning, and buy-in. Preventing data breaches at companies is mainly about creating clear internal messaging and successfully disseminating that messaging throughout your organisation.

Whether you’re a CIO, the head of IT, or in a non-security-related position, your company is at greater risk of a data breach if your data security practices are unclear. Here are five reasons why a cyber security audit will help you implement more security awareness and security training at your company to protect sensitive information like payment card data, personally identifiable information (PII), or protected health information (PHI) at your organisation:

1. Making sure you have Policies and Procedures in place

Data security begins (and ends) with documentation. The more time and detail you put into your documentation, the better foundation your security culture will have. You will use your policies and procedures as evidence of compliance, employee training, and support for day-to-day operations. Give your employees easy access to reliable and updated security information.   

Your policies and procedures should include things like:

  • Firewall rules
  • System hardening standards
  • Data retention policies
  • And of course, password policies

You should also include the data security compliance mandates you may be required to follow—like PCI DSS, HIPAA, and GDPR.

Also, be sure that once you create the policies and procedures, you don’t just set them on the shelf and forget about them. Make these documents a central part of the office. Feature your policies and procedures in your training and schedule time to update them regularly. Good data security is all about the proper process. Documentation is vital in that process.

2. Learning about and train employees on How to Properly Manage Sensitive Data

Managing sensitive data from day to day involves many people, processes, and technologies. Some of the controls and areas you’ll need to work with include:

  • Risk Assessment and Risk Management Plan 
  • Data Encryption
  • Data Destruction
  • Wireless Networks (Wi-Fi)
  • Secure Remote Access

Not surprisingly, managing your company’s sensitive data includes a significant documentation component and should begin with a risk assessment. Risk assessments include data mapping, listing vulnerabilities and threats, analysing risk, creating a risk management plan, and testing your environment. 

3. Understanding Which Security Tools You Need

The correct security tools are critical to protecting data at your company. Data breaches are prevalent due to a lack of appropriate tools–plus, they aren’t always used or configured correctly. Yours will likely include some or all of the following:

  • Firewalls: Filter potentially harmful Internet traffic to protect valuable, sensitive data.
  • Anti-Virus Software: Offers an additional layer of protection to any system within a network.
  • File integrity monitoring (FIM): Will generate an alert when a file is changed.
  • Log monitoring and log management: Install third-party log monitoring and management software if needed.
  • Intrusion Detection/Intrusion Prevention Systems: IDS and IPS tools help identify suspected attacks and find security-associated gaps. 
  • Vulnerability Scanning: Automated internal and external scans that perform a high-level search for vulnerabilities.
  • Penetration Testing: In-person attempt by professionals to ethically “hack” into your environment.
  • Security Audits: May be required by PCI DSS, HIPAA, or other security standards. Third-party audits help confirm your security posture and find resolvable problems before criminals do. 

It’s essential to educate yourself and avoid buying products blindly, without understanding the different security tools, what they do, or even necessary for your environment. Once you purchase tools, be sure to provide training and awareness to those who need them. 

4. Preparing your employees to Respond to a Data Breach

Data breach attacks are inevitable. If these attacks are successful and your data is compromised, you will be glad you already have a response plan in place. Depending on what security mandate(s) you comply with, you could face significant fines. We’ve seen data breach fines so severe they put companies out of business. 

Different compliance mandates may require different breach procedures, especially regarding how you notify, who you notify, and when you decide to notify. To help implement security awareness, begin your data breach response and start getting the word out. 

Include updates on your efforts in internal newsletters, emails, meetings, training, announcements, and dashboards.

A data breach response plan has 6 phases:

  1. Prepare
  2. Identify
  3. Contain
  4. Eradicate
  5. Recover
  6. Review

The success of your data breach response plan hinges on communication. Have you noticed a theme in this post? If you have the plan on file, but no one knows about it, your employees will waste a lot of time scrambling to organise a response to the breach right after it happens. 

A proper data breach response plan will include a pre-written PR response, a contact list for emergency communications, and a forensic analysis list to begin your in-house forensic process. Training should include roles, possible scenarios, and a heavy emphasis on what not to do (for example, don’t automatically wipe all your data if a breach occurs). Training should also include testing your data breach response plan. Learn about the difference between testing with discussion-based exercises, tabletop exercises, and parallel testing here.  

5. Knowing Your Compliance Mandates

When it comes to compliance, it’s your responsibility to train, educate, and bring all employees on board. Many different kinds of compliance require data security controls.

Each of these data security mandates carries its unique requirements and non-compliance fees. There is some crossover in requirements and security controls, but each mandate was created for a different reason to protect different types of data. 

PCI DSS stands for the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard and is a written mandate created for companies that take and process payment transactions using major card brands like Visa, MasterCard, and American Express. These card brands created the PCI DSS to help regulate the industry, and most importantly, to help businesses and customers avoid card data theft and fraud.

So as you can see, by implementing a cyber security audit this Autumn, you will be able to highlight the areas in which your business needs help to become more compliant and safer for your staff, clients and customers.