The Equifax cyber breach affected about 143 million people. Consequently, the company had to pay hefty fines to cover the potential losses it caused its trusting clients. While it might have been possible for Equifax to recover from the data breach, it might be tough for smaller businesses to do the same, faced by a similar challenge. Data breaches can take more than a financial toll on businesses. They can hurt your reputation, create a rift between your business and its key stakeholders, and potentially lead to a downfall of your entire business.
Sadly, there isn’t a silver bullet for stopping common security breaches from affecting your business. The fact that new cyber threats come up every day can make limiting this risk tough. Implementing internal controls, however, can give you a better chance of protecting your business from this risk.
Here is why internal controls are essential to building a strong cybersecurity posture and how to use them:
Why Internal Controls Matter
There are three types of internal controls: detective, corrective and preventative. Detective internal controls will help you identify issues early enough to prevent them from wreaking havoc to your business. A great example is log monitoring tools that send out alerts whenever an out-of-the-ordinary event happens. Corrective internal controls, on the other hand, help in making corrections whenever something wrong happens.
For instance, containerizing data that is stored on employee devices makes it easy to remotely delete data from devices, if stolen. Lastly, preventive controls keep common threats at bay. Firewalls are an amazing example of preventive control measures as they keep malware away from corporate systems.
Document Policies & Procedures
Internal controls should never be treated as a no-brainer. Not everyone knows what internal controls they need to apply when working for your organization. Documenting your internal controls not only offers employees a place to refer to but also makes the onboarding process of new recruits straightforward.
Besides, some regulations will typically require you to document your internal controls to be compliant. Once you have done your cyber risk assessment, take time to craft and document policies and procedures that align with the ad hoc risk treatment options you choose.
Focus On Employee Training
If documented policies and procedures aren’t enforced, they will be nothing but mere documents. It will be tough to encourage employees to follow them thereby rendering them useless. Ideally, training employees will ensure they follow these procedures until they become habit. For instance, employees need to form the habit of only connecting to corporate IT assets using secure networks, instead of free and insecure public Wi-Fi.
Considering that 90% of data breaches are a result of human error, training is essential to avoid such errors. Create strong training and retraining programs for your workforce. The way you train them will also have a huge impact on the effectiveness of the training sessions. Techniques such as microlearning and gamification can make training sessions fun and increase the possibility that employees will retain the learned information.
Monitor Internal Controls
Your internal controls will not always be effective, especially in today’s dynamic cybersecurity landscape. While an internal control might make averting a cyber-risk easy today, it can be rendered obsolete once the risk it is meant to protect against evolves. Also, new threats are bound to arise from time to time, requiring you to implement new control measures.
Always monitor the internal controls you have in place to ensure they are still effective and implemented the right way. Setting KPIs for control measures helps ensure they are meeting their intended goals. It might also pay to monitor your industry for new cyber threats. The earlier you can spot these threats, the lower the chances they will result in the detriment of your business.
Communication Is Key
How comfortable are your employees when approaching top leadership concerning a cybersecurity issue? Do the guidelines set by the top executive reach the employee at the right time? Communication is a stepping stone to a strong cybersecurity posture. First, any form of communication concerning internal controls needs to flow flawlessly through the entire organization from the leadership.
Second, considering that employees are at the front line of fighting common data breaches, they should find it easy to approach managers with specific problems. Having an environment where information can flow easily can draw the line between losing your business to a data breach and being proactive in preventing the same breach. Foster a strong feedback mechanism for easier communication throughout your organization.
Averting common cyber risks is reserved for prepared businesses. With the right internal controls, it becomes easy to stop risks from miles away and make the right adjustments. Implement the above tips for a strong cybersecurity posture.