Cybersecurity: An Organizationwide Responsibility

C-suite execs must set an example of good practices while also supporting the IT department with enough budget to protect the organization from next-generation cyberattacks.

Guy Bunker, CTO of Clearswift

November 13, 2019

5 Min Read

It seems as if there is a story in the media every day about a new cybersecurity incident. Cyberattacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated; no longer are they about a quick exploit of a credit card number but, rather, advanced attacks on large databases with millions of customer details, or intellectual property that is exfiltrated after a weaponized document attack. Furthermore, the commercialization of malware is making it increasingly easy for individuals to mount attacks with very little knowledge — just a pocketful of bitcoins to buy the required malware application and some expertise.

The British Airways fine of £183 million over a passenger data breach has had one positive impact — it's given board members a well-needed push to pay attention to the importance of cybersecurity. Our recent survey found that almost one-third of companies (32%) referenced General Data Protection Regulation fines against British Airways and Marriott as a primary reason for an increase in board-level involvement and provision in IT security spending.

Global organizations aren't the only ones being damaged by malicious activity. Recently, research revealed that 70% of financial companies have experienced a cybersecurity incident in the past year. This demonstrates the real, growing threat of data breaches and malicious activity, and highlights the speed needed to tackle the problem. However, mitigating attacks is not a one-size-fits-all situation. With new tech emerging each day, recognizing one type of threat won't necessarily help you spot another.

Where to Start?
At long last, organizations are realizing the need for increased investment in cybersecurity. In fact, 73% of financial businesses surveyed would like to see an increase in cybersecurity investment. Clearly, the unprecedented level of costly data breaches over the last six months has forced C-suite executives to sit up and think about what they can do to prevent it happening to their business.

Good security is more than just technology. Before throwing money at a problem, you must truly understand the issue. In this case, where is the information? Who has access to it? How do they access it? The cloud has brought unprecedented agility to organizations but has also introduced risk as business processes continue to evolve.

Organizations are beginning to understand the problems associated with cloud-based services such as OneDrive and Dropbox. An important lesson from the recent SharePoint hack was that just because a cloud service provider is well known doesn't mean it's secure. An organization may also not be directly targeted by an attack but still get caught up in the collateral damage of a hack against the cloud provider. Those organizations with disaster recovery/business continuity plans need to update them to include cyber threats as well as physical ones.

Educate to Mitigate
Cybersecurity tools are a last line of defense, a safety net, but should not be relied on as an overall solution. Organizations must continually educate their employees on cybersecurity risks, including data breaches, and how to recognize and mitigate them. The need for cyber education has never been greater, with nearly half of cybersecurity incidents over the last 12 months caused by internal errors such as employees failing to follow security protocols or data protection policies. With human error accounting for such a large number of incidents, technology is the safety net to prevent such mistakes.

There is also a need for improved processes, not just around secure information handling, but also around what to do when there is a problem — or when an employee thinks there is one. While it would be great to think that employees can recognize threats, such as phishing emails, or business email compromise (BEC) scams, they often don't. Having a well-understood process about who to contact and what happens next is critical for building a culture that has information security at its core.

A portion of the cybersecurity budget should be set aside to provide training for all employees, from the CEO to staff working in the cafeteria, with additional training for those working in finance and human resources. If an employee brings a security incident to the attention of IT, there must be a "don't shoot the messenger" mentality — otherwise, others will be put off coming forward and try to deal with the problem on their own, and that's an even bigger problem.

New security solutions to mitigate the latest threats are not free and should be considered. But before rushing out to spend money, it is worth revisiting current solutions. Have there been updates with new functionality that have yet to be deployed or configured, or are there other add-on options that can be purchased rather than a rip-and-replace approach?

Of course, the methods that cybercriminals use evolve every day and so does technology. An agile approach to cybersecurity is needed to protect the organization in the short, medium, and long terms, with a constant vigilance by the IT department watching for tell-tale signs of compromise.

Above and Beyond
The high-profile breaches we've witnessed recently should jumpstart an ongoing effort to invest in the security of organizations, including investing in employees.

C-suite executives must go above and beyond, setting an example of good cybersecurity practices and leading from the front while also supporting the IT department with enough budget to protect the organization from next-generation cyberattacks.

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About the Author(s)

Guy Bunker

CTO of Clearswift

Guy Bunker is an internationally renowned IT expert with over 20 years' experience in information security and IT management. He currently holds the position of CTO at data security company Clearswift, and was previously the Global Security Architect for HP. Prior to that, he was Chief Scientist for Symantec and CTO of the Application and Service Management Division at Veritas (acquired by Symantec). He has recently authored a paper on security for the Elsevier Information Security Technical Report and co-authored the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) report on cloud security.

He is a frequently invited speaker at conferences, including RSA, EuroCloud, and InfoSec. He has made many appearances as a data protection expert on television, including BBC Click, as well as radio and in the press. Guy is a board adviser for several small technology businesses and has published books on utility computing, backup, and data loss prevention. He holds a number of US patents and is a Chartered Engineer with the IET.

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