July 26, 2023
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
5 proactive strategies to prevent cybersecurity breaches
It’s a harsh reality, but the data privacy and cyber landscape is getting riskier.
The number of global cyber-attacks increased by 38% in 2022, with experts warning that hackers are becoming more capable of exploiting the critical IT infrastructure that businesses rely on to deliver products and services.
The threat spectrum is also expanding. In addition to individual hackers and criminal gangs, businesses also have to deal with dangerous state-sponsored espionage cyber-attacks, such as the recent cyber-attacks by Russia on the EU and the US, and cyber-attacks by North Korea.
The hidden costs of a cyber-attack
Globally, governments and supranational bodies are imposing tougher penalties for data privacy failures, giving firms plenty of incentive to put more resources into cyber-security. Violations of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) are punished by fines of up to €20 million, or 4% of global turnover, for example.
Adding to that cost (and other serious regulatory consequences) is the potential for firms to suffer significant reputational damage as a result of losing customers’ personal data.
If an organisation suffers a ransomware attack and subsequently pays the anonymous hackers to unlock their data, they may unwittingly violate sanctions regulations and face enforcement action – with civil and criminal penalties reaching into the many millions if not billions of dollars.
And when media outlets pick up the story, the loss of customer trust accompanies further reputational harm given the negativity associated with breaching national security laws.
To put the scale of the problem in context, the US is amongst the most targeted countries in the world, with a 57% increase in attacks from 2021 to 2022, and the average cost of a single data breach reaching $9.44 million.
Getting ahead of data threats
The threats to data, and their potential business impact, mean that Chief Information Security Officers (CISO) and their teams face an increasing administrative burden.
Data privacy isn’t just a question of integrating compliance checks and applying adequate Know Your Customer (KYC) processes to customers. From identifying viruses and malware hidden within emails to helping employees protect themselves online, effective cybersecurity demands a coordinated and holistic response.
Central to that challenge is the need for companies to find ways of getting ahead of cyber risks, and preventing security breaches before they happen. It may seem easier said than done, but there are effective ways to approach the data privacy problem – not least by leveraging technology assets to support human compliance expertise.
To be proactive about data breaches, however, is to first understand how and why they happen. It is critical that CISOs review their cybersecurity solutions in order to identify the pain points that are degrading the effectiveness of data protection measures and leaving them more vulnerable to attacks.
Key strategies to address cybersecurity pain points
1. Governance, risk, and compliance
The success of any new software integration relies on an organisation’s ability to navigate governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) – that is, aligning the technology with business goals while fulfilling all regulatory and security obligations.
Employee priorities and skill sets may pull in different directions in this context: engineers and managers may be more invested in the functionality of tech infrastructure and less aware of the potential security risks and vulnerabilities.
Third-party risk should also be prioritised; while internal cybersecurity may be effective, firms need to be confident that suppliers and other service providers are meeting the same standards.
Solutions to GRC friction must be holistic, often involve a change in company culture, and reach every level of seniority. Knowledge of regulatory detail is critical to effective GRC: CISOs should seek employees with the relevant skills and expertise, offer training and education, and support that effort with cybersecurity tools which are as easy to apply as possible.
2. Software management
Modern IT infrastructure can be complex and often involve a number of different apps and systems with data spread across them.
Ensuring the security of data across different platforms is challenging since every gateway into, and every connection point between, them can represent a vulnerability.
As the depth and breadth of IT infrastructure expand, so does the challenge of securing data within it. CISOs must ensure that the apps they deploy to navigate that system do not degrade the performance or products, and must also review them constantly to address emerging security gaps or blind spots.
Consolidation is viewed as the best solution to ever-expanding software infrastructure. CISOs should actively seek opportunities to streamline and centralise workflows and integrate regulatory automation tools that make both employee and customer experience better.
Consolidation also directly enhances cybersecurity processes: with fewer disparate systems to manage, CISOs can authorise and deploy updates faster, and narrow the scope of threat detection.
3. Human error
Human error will always factor into the effectiveness of cybersecurity tools, which depend on the ability of employees to implement them properly. The volume and sophistication of cyber threats should be an ongoing security priority, with employees trained to detect potential attack vectors such as malicious emails, and protect themselves accordingly.
Beyond direct attacks, the sheer complexity of new cybersecurity measures also amplifies the potential for errors, such as missed checks and controls, which leave IT infrastructure vulnerable.
As a cybersecurity pain point, human error is mitigated by effective training and by leveraging technology that reduces pressure on employees.
Automation may not offer the same intuitive scope or nuance as human compliance expertise and experience, but can instead be applied to menial or tedious data processes, such as data entry, for enhanced security, speed, and accuracy – before verification by a human expert.
4. Threat categorisation
Not all cyber threats are equal, but poorly coordinated cybersecurity tools often prevent organisations from properly discerning the severity of threats – which can in turn lead to them failing to deal with each threat efficiently.
Systems that deal with every potential threat in the same manner risk draining resources and employee focus, slowing down other critical workflows and generating an unsustainable amount of false positive alerts.
Ideally, cybersecurity solutions should allow for some degree of threat categorisation so that less dangerous threats can be dealt with quickly and efficiently, while more complex or serious threats can be prioritised and forwarded to the CISO for greater scrutiny.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning tools offer significant value in this context since they can be trained to recognise red flag characteristics and automatically categorise threats by severity.
5. Data visibility
Data privacy is often compromised because employees lack visibility into the data they are collecting.
Lack of data insight, which might represent ignorance of what data is being held, where it is being held, and how long it is being held, can quickly lead to misapplied controls, and poor understanding of risk exposure when threats emerge.
Similarly, when customers make legally-mandated requests for transparency, firms may be unable to respond appropriately, and subsequently incur compliance penalties.
CISOs should implement an efficient, accurate data storage solution as a cybersecurity priority, and ensure employees know how to use it.
Data storage should be centralised to avoid duplication and redundancy and to facilitate the fulfilment of customer transparency requests. Similarly, data storage solutions should enable appropriate record-keeping functions so that information is visible and usable for persons that need it.
Waiting for threats to emerge before implementing cybersecurity measures is no longer acceptable to regulators or the public.
In a constantly shifting risk environment, CISOs must stay ahead of emerging threats and regulatory obligations by constantly reviewing their security posture and identifying gaps and blindspots in data protection. Realistically, the only way to maintain this kind of proactive strategy is to integrate a RegTech solution that works with a firm’s business objectives.
CUBE’s powerful cybersecurity solution is designed to help CISOs shoulder their data privacy burden, with complete oversight of existing data policies and controls, and clear visibility of upcoming regulatory changes that might impact workflows. Our solution helps firms both prepare for and react to change, by freeing up critical resources and streamlining threat responses.
With centralised management of a suite of automated data management tools, our software can be tailored to each firm’s risk landscape and can build defensible audit trails across all jurisdictions.