The 2019 Cybersecurity Checklist: Essential Tactics to Ensure a Company’s Data is Protected

From phishing scams to app vulnerabilities, to insider threats and more, there is a wide array of threat landmines to avoid. If you’re the person tasked with ensuring that a company has a robust security posture, it wouldn’t surprise me if you’re often losing sleep.
A photo of a pen and a checklist

When we consider the constantly evolving and rising cyberthreats plaguing enterprises, we understand why making decisions on cybersecurity investments can quickly become overwhelming. From phishing scams to app vulnerabilities, to insider threats and more, there is a wide array of threat landmines to avoid. If you’re the person tasked with ensuring that a company has a robust security posture, it wouldn’t surprise me if you’re often losing sleep.

At times, and especially for chief information security officers (CISOs), the most basic challenge can be determining the company’s critical security needs before they cut through the noise and select the strongest security solutions their budgets will allow. 

When asked what technologies should be prioritized, the answers are not always as concise or as simple as one might imagine. The reason is because there are so many variables to consider for each company.

But, it’s with those conversations in mind that I offer this checklist as a solid foundation from which to build upon. These are suggestions I’ve discussed with my own CISO, when we decided how to shape our 2019 enterprise security strategy.

The 2019 Cybersecurity Checklist

✔Conduct an Internal Audit

✔Train and Monitor Employees

✔Plan Ahead for Cyber-Attacks

Understanding Strengths and Weaknesses

Recently, a security survey revealed that employee confidence in their company’s security programs outweighed the actual effectiveness of the security programs. This is a remarkable disparity, one that the same survey suggested could be caused by a lack of consistent cybersecurity audits. That’s a point well taken. How can you possibly know where to make cybersecurity investments without analyzing the company’s most vulnerable areas?

As experts in web application security, we often start there. But there’s also backup and disaster recovery or password policies to consider. The fact is, basic firewalls and virus protection no longer shield an enterprise from malicious attacks.

More sophisticated, intelligent technologies are needed to measure things like user and entity behaviors, privileged access behaviors, roles and permissions, security event alerts and more. Therefore, a security officer must use a comprehensive audit to identify as many threats as possible, and then decide which technologies will help reduce vulnerabilities before something happens.

The Biggest Threats Could Be Within the Same Four Walls

After analyzing the organization and identifying critical areas to take immediate actions, find out how well employees are informed and committed to upholding the company’s data security policies. While news headlines frequently blame malware for a data breach, research has shown that nearly 60 percent of the time, it is a malicious or simply careless actor inside the company whose actions led to the breach.

Therefore, review onboarding procedures to ensure employees are trained both when they start and frequently during employment on best practices for secure data management. Sharing the results of the cybersecurity audit can also educate and motivate employees to identify and report potential internal breaches.

Finally, review and communicate the penalties for purposeful misuse of company data. When an employee separates from the company, whether it’s by their choice or not, conduct an exit interview that reviews penalties. Change passwords or other security permissions immediately so that person is no longer privileged with physical or electronic access to the business operations after departing.

Prepare in Advance for the Worst

Unfortunately, given the many attack vectors that exist, and the fact that hackers are constantly finding new ways to use technology to exploit weak security practices, the odds are increasing for companies to experience some form of data loss or breach in 2019. Despite taking necessary precautions, mischief makers may still get beyond the company firewall. It is important to have an action plan in place to help deal with such an event before it happens. In fact, planning ahead could help your company mitigate damages. 

Business disaster and continuity planning is just as important for cyber-threats as it is for physical threats.  Similar to how businesses buy insurance policies to protect themselves from fires, hurricanes or floods, they can also purchase insurance policies to protect against loss from cyber-attacks. Cyber insurance policies, also known as cyber liability insurance coverage, provide a company with the necessary assistance to deal with the investigations, lawsuits or privacy violations that may have resulted from a data breach.

The cyber insurance market is estimated to double by 2020, with the boost to the market likely due to an increase in cyber risk awareness among C-level executives and high cyber-related losses. Consider whether a cyber insurance policy makes sense for your company.

The bottom line is, cybersecurity is a necessity that many businesses put on the back burner until they are in the middle of a crisis. However, this lapse can lead to severe financial losses and damage to a company’s reputation. By conducting an internal audit, training and monitoring employees, and planning ahead for how to respond to and recover, companies will be better prepared and protected, should threats come knocking in 2019.

Validate your cybersecurity skills with the CompTIA Cybersecurity Career Pathway.

Craig Hinkley is the CEO of WhiteHat Security.

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