Eight Effective Cybersecurity Practices Every CFO Should Know
An organization’s C-suite executives should all be interested in the cybersecurity used to safeguard its information technology (IT) environment. Protecting a company’s valuable data resources needs to be a high priority for everyone, especially upper management. They have a great influence on how resources are allocated to implement cybersecurity measures.
A company’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) has additional responsibilities regarding the way a business protects its IT environment. The CFO is involved with developing and approving the IT budget used to provide cybersecurity. They also need to be concerned with the financial ramifications of a data breach, including fines related to compliance issues if regulated information is compromised.
Following are eight key cybersecurity practices all CFOs should know and promote through their companies.
1. Implementing Network Firewalls
Hardware and software firewalls form the first line of defense to protect a network from cyberattacks. The goal is to keep all unauthorized traffic out of the network. A firewall needs to be properly configured and maintained to provide reliable protection. Modern firewalls can furnish additional protection with features like intrusion prevention.
2. A Strong Password Policy
Passwords are the keys necessary to gain access to IT resources. A password is typically required to access everything from a personal email account to corporate databases containing sensitive information. Due to the nature of passwords and how they are used, individuals are responsible for creating and protecting them.
Without the proper training and incentives, many users would choose trivial passwords that make it easy to access the systems they need to do their jobs. Hackers rely on this fact and perpetrate brute-force attacks that attempt to guess passwords that can then be used to gain unauthorized access to a company’s IT components.
Implementing a strong password policy across all infrastructure elements reduces the likelihood of successful brute-force attacks. The policy should enforce the creation of non-trivial passwords that are required to be changed regularly.
3. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
Preventing unauthorized access to a company’s computing environment is a foundational component of cybersecurity strategy. MFA offers companies a powerful method of minimizing unauthorized access.
MFA requires that more than one method of authentication is used when attempting to access a system or infrastructure component. For example, a user may need to enter a PIN or numeric code sent to a mobile device in addition to providing a login id and password. A criminal would need the login credentials and access to the mobile device to thwart MFA.
Using multiple authentication methods adds protection for valuable resources if one technique is compromised or spoofed. It offers greater protection than even the strongest password policy can provide.
4. A Zero Trust Mindset
Zero trust is an approach to cybersecurity that assumes every connection attempt and transaction is malicious until proven otherwise. Zero trust employs robust identity verification and authentication procedures to protect sensitive data and systems. Three primary principles form the foundation of a zero trust cybersecurity strategy.
- No user or device should be trusted inside or outside of your network. Every connection needs to be verified. Simply gaining access to the network does not imply the ability to traverse it at will.
- Access should be granted based exclusively on the user’s and device’s identity regardless of location. The access request must be verified to ensure it is legitimate and permitted by the requestor’s privileges. This principle meshes well with the needs of a mobile workforce where connectivity to the network may be initiated from any location.
- Continuous authentication and verification are required to maintain security.
Adopting a zero trust mindset regarding the security of your IT environment can go a long way toward keeping it safe. It’s not paranoia because cybercriminals are trying to get into your systems every day.
5. Eliminating Elevated Privileges
The term elevated privileges refers to allowing individuals access to computing and data resources not necessary for them to do their jobs. The concept of elevated privileges is related to the zero trust security strategy. Companies need to avoid providing raised privileges as default credentials.
Accidental or malicious use of elevated privileges is often responsible for data breaches involving internal actors. Users should only be trusted with a privilege level that lets them perform their job. Privileged ids should be removed from the system as soon as they are no longer needed.
6. End-to-End Encryption
Data needs to be encrypted throughout its life cycle to provide optimal protection against cybercriminals and accidental disclosure. In the unfortunate event of a data breach, encrypted data will be useless to unauthorized users. Data encryption can impact system performance if not implemented correctly but is well worth the effort.
7. Backups and Disaster Recovery Plans are Essential
Backups may not immediately come to mind when considering cybersecurity, but they should. Ransomware and other types of cyber attacks can result in extended outages. Data loss or corruption can affect mission-critical systems and put a company out of business if they are not prepared.
Systems need to be backed up regularly with a frequency that matches their importance to the organization. Companies need to develop disaster recovery and business continuity plans that enable them to quickly recover important systems. Failure to take these steps risks the future of the business if it is victimized by a cyber attack.
8. Employee Cybersecurity Training
Many successful ransomware attacks and data breaches are initiated by compromising an employee’s credentials or taking advantage of their inferior security awareness. One of the most impactful investments a CFO can make regarding cybersecurity is to provide employee education and training. The training should help employees understand their role in protecting IT resources and identify threats such as email phishing attempts.
A Simple Way to Strengthen Your Company’s Cybersecurity
Working with an experienced managed IT services partner like Prescient Solutions can deliver immediate results in strengthening your company’s cybersecurity. CFOs can make a wise investment by beginning with a vulnerability and security assessment through which Prescient helps your company identify gaps and improve its cybersecurity. They have the skills and experience to address all the cybersecurity practices discussed above.