What is Data and Risk Management?
Data and risk management encompasses the processes and procedures an organization follows to safeguard the data it collects and stores. Data is today’s biggest asset—and today’s biggest target. If your organization has data, no matter now little or how sensitive, it’s at risk for leakage, theft, or attack. Sorry, that’s a little melodramatic—but cybersecurity experts agree that the number of attacks are growing across industries, with global ransomware attacks alone rising by 62 percent between 2019 and 2020, and by 158 percent in just North America. And everyone, from the largest enterprise to the smallest business, is under attack.
Today’s Biggest Cyber Risks
The biggest cyber threats of today hinge on improperly secured data and untrained employees. Hackers are using tried-and-true methods alongside shrewd new tactics. Here are the strategies malevolent actors use today:
- Phishing: This evil twin of Rickrolling works by mimicking a trusted link or sender with the intention of stealing sensitive login information. Never gonna give you up, indeed.
- Ransomware: Arguably the most pervasive threat today, ransomware takes your organization’s data hostage and may—or may not—return it unharmed and unread after a sky-high ransom payment.
- Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS): If you can’t make your own ransomware, store-bought is fine. Ransomware developers have begun leasing their tools to wannabe hackers, and even offer customer support as RaaS users attempt to steal information.
- Cryptojacking: This criminal version of cryptocurrency mining inserts itself onto your device and sucks energy from your processing power towards making money for the hacker.
- Employees: Whether they mean to or not, employees and other internal users are responsible for nearly 50 percent of all data loss. Some of this activity is intentional, and some is accidental, especially as social engineering gets smarter. But employees don’t have to be the weakest link: with regular training and safety mechanisms in place, you can keep your sensitive data safe from anyone.
Read more: The 7 Biggest Cyber Threat Trends in 2021
Steps You Can Take to Achieve Data Risk Management
1. Assess Your Risk Factors
Identifying threats is a primary concern of a comprehensive risk assessment and analysis. It involves taking a step back and reviewing your data and processes from a distance, typically using the data security lifecycle framework (see also: step 5, below), plus an analysis of internal and external threats, your vulnerabilities, and determining what the outcome of a breach would mean for you.
While they vary in detail and specifics on how to mitigate specific threats, a threat catalogue may be a useful tool during this step. However, some, like the NIST SP 800-30, called the Guide for Conducting Risk Assessments, can be a helpful place to start evaluating what’s applicable to your organization and data.
2. Plan for Attack
You shouldn’t wonder whether you’ll be breached, but when.
Once you’ve understood your greatest weaknesses and vulnerabilities, identified any risks or cracks within your organization, and taken proactive steps to monitor your network, it’s time for a plan. Develop a response plan for ransomware attacks and other threats and keep it up to date.
It’s also important to stress-test your organization’s incident response plan. Regular pen tests can help identify new cracks in your data security since they mimic the tactics used by hackers.
Related Reading: Think Your Customer Data was Exposed? Follow These Steps
Another key strategy is to track data activity so you know what “normal” looks like for your organization, and so you can catch unusual activity before it escalates.
3. Educate Your Employees
Communicating your company’s cybersecurity policies to employees can help them understand the steps they’re expected to follow and how to keep data safe—as well as what could happen if they don’t. This can also help employees keep their personal data safe outside of the office, and sharing new risks and best practices regularly helps avoid human error, which makes up half of all internal actor data loss.
4. Passwords and MFA
Good education should include information about secure passwords and the benefits of multi-factor authentication (MFA). Requiring MFA reduces the risk if any user credentials are stolen. Multiple high-profile hacks have taken advantage of systems that didn’t require MFA. Says Payments Source of a DNS security breach in Brazil, “a simple one-time password or push authentication would have alerted DNS administrators to [the security breach] before hackers were able to take control of all the systems.”
5. Know Your Data
Part of risk mitigation includes understanding your data and knowing where it’s stored so you can protect it accordingly. Data visibility is the biggest cybersecurity weakness, according to a recent HelpSystems report that solicited feedback from CISOs and CIOs in the financial services factor.
Once you’re aware of the types of data you have on hand, where it’s being stored, and how it is being used, you can start to safeguard it. This can include classifying it, restricting access, limiting who can share it or what specific data points are shared, and encrypting it as it moves between systems.
Related Reading: A Beginner’s Guide to Protecting Your Data
6. Data Security Software Can Help
No one expects you do to this all on your own. Once you know your risks, gaps, and areas for improvement, you can start putting dedicated data security solutions in place.
- Feeling proactive? Threat intelligence solutions monitor and analyze network traffic while penetration testing software can give you the perspective of a hacker.
- Need help understanding and organizing your data? Data classification solutions can help make sense of the madness and establish how certain data types should be protected.
- Want to avoid letting metadata slip through the cracks? Data loss prevention can redact sensitive information and metadata from files.
- Worried about malware embedded in files submitted to your organization? Content inspection can put risky information in quarantine to keep malware out of your systems.
- Is secure and compliant file sharing a concern? Use managed file transfer to centralize, streamline, and secure your file transfers.
- Need to quickly control and revoke document access? Digital rights management solutions can encrypt your data and control access, wherever your files travel.
By using the right tools, you’re better prepared to fend off an attack. Case in point: The finance and insurance industries are regularly the most-targeted, but IBM found that companies in that industry disclose fewer successful data breaches than companies in other, less-targeted industries. That may indicate that finance and insurance companies are more prepared to fend off attacks thanks to software and processes that detect threats before any data is breached.
How MFT Works as a Risk Mitigation Tool
Managed File Transfer (MFT) solutions are data transfer tools that secure your data exchanges internally and to external trading partners. Thanks to encryption and automation, MFT helps to avoid the headaches and pitfalls of standard FTP file transfers and improves reliability and scalability of homegrown solutions or scripts.
As part of your data security product mix, MFT protects data both while in transit and at rest, and some MFT solutions offer extensive reporting and auditing to keep a close eye on what’s happening within the solution, such as where data is going, who’s sending it, and even who’s viewing what.