Cybersecurity: Protecting client data through industry best practices

September 22, 2021

With the number and variety of cyber threats continually on the rise, protecting your confidential data is now more important than ever. Use these cybersecurity best practices to keep your organization, employees and clients safe. 

 

In our increasingly digital world, cybersecurity has become a prominent issue for both service providers and their clients. This is particularly the case in the finance industry, where millions of financial transactions involving sensitive data are conducted daily. Understanding and implementing best practices for mitigating cybersecurity threats are crucial to keeping your organization, employees and customers safe.'

 

Best practice tip 1: Establish a sound governance framework

Properly protecting confidential data from cyberattacks requires a strong, intelligence-driven and risk-based security program that is backed by executive leadership and investments. This program should include incident response plans that must be tested regularly. Consider the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework, which has been broadly adopted across industries. Once in place, the program must be reviewed frequently and updated accordingly. 

 

Best practice tip 2: Protect your computers, systems and network

A reliable network and system, along with computer security, is essential to protecting the confidentiality and integrity of information being processed, transmitted and retained. Anti-malware and anti-virus software should be installed on servers and workstations. This software, as well as any programs downloaded on your workstations, should be centrally managed and updated daily. Network and firewall monitoring are also key to detecting threats and preventing intrusions. Make sure your security program includes regular vulnerability assessments, penetration testing and patching protocols.

Additionally, organizations that house and transfer confidential consumer data are responsible for the security of their data transfer processes. Using multiple dedicated and encrypted networks that are actively monitored for bandwidth usage can help ensure file transfers are completed securely and effectively.

 

Best practice tip 3: Implement and monitor access controls

Controlling and monitoring user access to sensitive systems and data is vital to maintaining a secure environment. Keep access limited to only those who require it for essential job functions and maintain stringent password requirements that meet industry standards. Strengthening the authentication required to use company email accounts, systems and software programs on personal devices (i.e., mobile phones, iPads, personal laptops, etc.) is particularly important as new technologies and devices are introduced. Continually monitoring user activity of everyone with access to sensitive data helps to proactively identify any suspicious or unsafe actions.

 

Best practice tip 4: Secure your physical environments

Physical security has long been a key component to safeguarding sensitive data. It’s important for employees at all levels within an organization to engage in practices that keep physical environments secure – in facility buildings as well as at home.

While physical security measures, such as utilizing a key card system to prevent unauthorized office entry are important, remote employees also need guidance on best practices to ensure that information remains secure in an at-home working environment. Taking advantage of cybersecurity technologies such as a virtual private network (VPN) can help to reduce the risk of a data breach.

Cyber criminals are evolving in their capabilities, which means that a VPN can’t simply require a username and password anymore to be completely secure. Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is preferable for a protected network. Further, the strongest forms of MFA do not rely on text messages, which can be spoofed, but instead work with one-time codes generated from a token or a token application.

 

Best practice tip 5: Provide enterprise-wide training

Criminals who carry out cyberattacks are always looking for new ways to gain access to sensitive information, and they target both individuals and organizations alike. In order to properly protect your company and employees from cyber threats, it’s important to train all employees to combat cyberattacks. Demonstrated executive-level support for enterprise-wide security initiatives, such as cybersecurity awareness training, can also help you create a secure environment throughout all levels of your organization.

Phishing is a common method that cybercriminals utilize to attack organizations by attempting to access information through fraudulent emails. Conducting phishing exercises is an effective way to continuously remind employees of best practices and test for appropriate response. Possible consequences of failing these exercises can include managerial follow-up and retraining to ensure a proper response in the future. Having high employee awareness for what phishing looks like is crucial for safeguarding your company’s sensitive information.

 

Best Practice Tip 6: Vendor management

Third-party vendors are a critical part of business operations and having a sound process in place to review them is equally as important to keep your organization running safely. When selecting vendors, ask for their SOC 2 or SSAE 18 reporting, and make sure you’re aware of how they protect client information. Conducting routine due diligence reviews helps ensure vendors are continuing to meet security requirements and helps you stay updated on any changes to services or staffing.

 

Best Practice Tip 7: Incident response planning

Conducting regular tests or exercises of your incident response plan has become increasingly important. As the environment changes, this will help determine if you need to update or change any of your procedures – ensuring your business continues to run smoothly despite times of uncertainty. This might involve establishing communications and technology for remote workers. Understanding how a situation will impact all stakeholders, internal and external, will help you to streamline these processes to meet everyone’s needs in the future.

The key takeaway from the pandemic is that the emphasis on adaptable incident response planning has increased. Learn from a crisis and update your plan to work toward mitigating future risk. Some events are impossible to predict but having a solid plan will protect your organization and limit damages.

Cybersecurity is a major area of concern for both businesses and individuals. Constant communication and transparency around your cybersecurity practices will help ensure your stakeholders feel comfortable. By engaging in these practices, your company can heighten your protection from cyber threats and gain a reputation as a safe and secure organization.

 

Learn more about cybersecurity in Cybercrisis management: Are you ready to respond? 

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