Whether you are a family office, a small business, or a large corporation, you cannot afford to focus on outside cybersecurity risks and neglect internal threats. The reality is that a good number of cybersecurity attacks come from insiders, including employees and vendors entrusted with sensitive information.
Internal threats range from the use of user access, using outdated software, abusing user access, downloading malicious content from the internet, and bringing your own device (BYOD) practice. Mitigating against these and more threats calls for elaborate internal controls, among which include the following.
- Comprehensive Procedures, Controls, And Policies
Ensure that you have clear policies and standard procedures around access management and related topics. Define who has what authority and access rights, and be clear on delegation and segregation of duties. There should be a system in place to ensure adherence in addition to reviewing the policies often. Review these procedures and policies regularly to ensure you are up-to-date with the best practices.
- Equipping Employees With The Right Skills
Train your staff, and retrain them as need be because your people will be an invaluable asset in your campaign to manage cyber threats. Test for understanding, and assess how well your people integrate the training they receive into everyday activities.
- No Personal Accounts And Assets
Limit, and if possible, prohibit the use of personal email and other accounts as well as personal laptops and document storage devices. All office business should be conducted on office assets through business accounts. BYOD poses a major risk as it’s highly likely that most of your employees may not have security tools installed on their devices.
- Email Encryption
Encrypting all email communications should be standard practice. This should be the way to do it, especially when dealing with financials and any other highly sensitive information.
- At-Rest Encryption For Your Assets
For a long time, so much emphasis was placed on encrypting assets such as laptops that were mobile. By doing so, loss of data could be prevented if the device was stolen. Encrypting all devices at rest is an excellent internal control strategy. Ensure that the internal devices of all devices in your organization are encrypted.
- Secure Access
Encourage the use of hard-to-crack passwords for all your devices. Employees shouldn’t share their passwords and other login information among each other, and especially where there are different levels of access. It helps to have a password manager app or a similar tool where passwords can be maintained and managed in a more secure location.
- Carefully Choose Your Third-Party Vendors
The first step in vendor lifecycle management is the qualification step. Invest your resources in due diligence and choose to only engage trustworthy vendors that will not bring on unnecessary risk for your business. Evaluate their licensing, as well as their IT assets and their staff training. You want to bring on board only a list of secure vendors.
- Proper Vetting And Auditing Of Access And Activity By Third-Party Vendors
Protect yourself by continuously monitoring and auditing your vendors. Start with a vendor categorization, and follow an approved methodology based on your risk assessment to audit the vendors’ activities. You should also continuously review their access privileges to reduce your risk.
- Maintain Confidentiality Across Social Media
Every employee should be conscious about their social media footprint. One too many businesses have found themselves the target of a cybersecurity threat after an employee shared office information on their personal social media platforms. Have a strict policy in place about what your staff can and cannot share on not only the company’s social platforms but also their personal pages.
- Transfer Some of the Risk
There’s no telling if and when a cyber attack can happen even with a tremendous internal controls strategy. After implementing varied practices and procedures, you should also get your business cybersecurity insurance or cyber insurance. Also known as cyber liability insurance, this cover will help you transfer some of the risks to your insurer, allowing you to significantly reduce the financial risk that comes with a cyber attack. Cyber insurance typically covers legal fees and expenses, fixing damaged computer systems, and the process of restoring the identities of affected customers.
Developing and staying on top of your internal controls is crucial to ensuring that you protect your business against cybersecurity threats from within. Be proactive and ensure your IT assets are well protected, your staff well trained, and that you have adequate cyber insurance cover.
Automating your internal control design and monitoring will save your business time and money. With a more streamlined process, auditors, both internal and external, will have an easier time reviewing your internal controls since they’ll not need to spend as much time chasing down and tracing audit trail documents.