The Essential Business Cyber Security Checklist for 2022

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The increasing sophistication of digital technologies coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the transition to remote work. Unfortunately for many businesses, the rapid transition to cyberspace has not come with an equal investment in cyber security, making cybercrime a highly profitable and lucrative criminal enterprise for thousands of hackers around the world.

Cyber security breaches are on the rise. Globally, organizations saw a 148% increase in ransomware attacks in the early months of the pandemic, according to VMwareTM. Figures like these are alarming, and they serve to highlight the serious operational, financial and reputational risk companies could face in the event of a cyber incident.

By taking a series of proactive steps before a security event happens, however, companies could help keep their sensitive data and critical systems safe from attack.

The importance of cyber security in the current business environment

Data is the central, vital resource in the digital economy, and protecting it is essential to the long-term success and stability of organizations operating in this environment. As businesses increasingly move their operations to online environments, hackers are ramping up their activity and working hard to exploit vulnerabilities in their infrastructure.

Among the most common attack vectors businesses face today include:

  • Malware is malicious software inadvertently downloaded to a device, which may take a number of different actions on behalf of the hacker, including spamming users with ads.
  • Ransomware attacks happen when malicious actors encrypt sensitive enterprise or consumer data and demand a ransom in exchange for the decryption key.
  • Phishing scams usually refer to efforts by hackers to solicit sensitive information from unsuspecting users, typically by posing as seemingly legitimate sources in email.
  • Malicious insiders exploit their access to company software and data by using it for their own criminal (or otherwise nefarious) purposes.

In the event of a successful security breach, companies face numerous risks that could lead to irreparable damage to their business, including:

  • Operational: During a ransomware attack, data is encrypted to extort a hefty ransom from business executives. This has a direct impact on the performance of employees, as they are unable to access the data needed to do their jobs. Moreover, businesses with insufficient continuity plans might struggle to return to pre-incident operating levels after the event.
  • Financial: A successful cyber-attack could cost companies thousands of dollars to remediate. Not only do they have to account for the direct costs of the breach itself, but they might also suffer revenue loss during downtime. Even if they overcome this sensitive period, companies will likely have to invest resources to repair damaged customer relationships.
  • Reputational: A successful data breach demonstrates to customers that your company does not have the proper controls and protocols in place to keep their data safe. This might severely damage brand image and erode consumer trust/confidence, which could require massive financial investment to remediate.

The 7-step business cyber security checklist

Reflecting the growing cyber security threat, research from McKinsey & CompanySM found that 85% of small- and medium-sized businesses intend to increase their IT security spend across 2022.

Upholding good cyber security standards in your business is a complicated process, however, and it requires several proactive security measures. Here is our checklist with the seven steps you should take to optimize your business’s cyber security program and keep the latest threats at bay:

1. Cloud security

As businesses increasingly realize the remarkable efficiency and productivity advantages associated with migrating their virtualized assets and workloads to the cloud, public cloud environments are turning into bigger targets for hackers.

When partnering with a public cloud service provider, it is critical that you understand your cyber security obligations in the shared responsibility model. Where the cloud provider is responsible for the security of the cloud environment itself, it is your duty to secure your assets within the cloud.

2. Automation

Cyber security processes typically contain numerous, manual processes. Automating these tasks not only streamlines your operation and makes your business at large more efficient (enabling you to devote those saved resources to other high-value priorities), but it also minimizes the incidence of human error, vastly enhancing your ability to detect legitimate security alerts and take remedial action before hackers are able to steal and exfiltrate sensitive data.

3. Ongoing monitoring

As cyber security solutions evolve and become better equipped to handle the latest threats, cyber attackers are responding by enhancing their own capabilities, using advanced tools like artificial intelligence to better exploit vulnerabilities and penetrate unsecure networks.

It is important you have processes and personnel in place to routinely check your cyber security stack for new vulnerabilities, as well as stay abreast of all the latest cyber security developments. Gathering this information could help you make upgrades and patch each vulnerability as needed.

4. Strong password protection

Employee negligence is one of the most common causes of a successful cyber security attack. Poor password practices in particular might be easily exploited by hackers to break into bank accounts, enterprise software apps and company-owned devices.

Train employees to avoid common password pitfalls (like using simple words or phrases, sharing passwords with untrustworthy parties and reusing passwords across multiple accounts) and create stronger passwords, like using a combination of symbols, numbers, lower- and upper-case letters for maximum protection.

5. Multi-factor authentication

Multi-factor authentication adds an additional layer of security to company apps, portals, emails and other access points. When attempting to access an account that is equipped with multi-factor authentication, users will be asked to prove their authorization using more than one method. In addition to providing their regular login credentials, they will also be asked to supply a code sent to either their smartphone or email address, both of which should already be recognized in the system.

6. Data backups

It is impossible to prevent every attack from taking place, and sometimes cyber criminals successfully penetrate systems and steal data. Reducing the damage of a successful attack means taking action before an attempt is made.

It is important to routinely back up your enterprise and consumer data and store it in a secure, off-site location. Not only does this help to reduce the leverage hackers gain from stealing your data (and therefore minimize their ability to extract pricey ransoms), it also helps buoy your business recovery plans after the attack has been thwarted.

7. Cyber security software

There are numerous cyber security solutions on the market, and while the right one will depend on your specific business restraints, objectives and requirements, it should give you the tools needed to streamline and centralize all of your security detection and response tasks.

Paired with antivirus software, a high-quality cyber security solution should help your teams sift through and analyze log information and pinpoint legitimate security threats, helping you direct your cyber security resources where it is needed for faster response times.

Stay ahead of the latest cyber security developments with Comerica Bank

The COVID-19 pandemic led directly to an upsurge in cyber security events, but even as the public health crisis subsides, these trends are likely to persist into the future. Success in the data-driven, modern business environment requires understanding the cyber threat landscape and taking the appropriate steps to ensure information security.

At Comerica Bank, we are committed to helping clients maximize the advantages of digitizing their services and operations and staying competitive in the current market.

Contact our team to learn more about our products and services.

This information is provided for general awareness purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as legal or compliance advice.

This article is provided for informational purposes only. While the information contained within has been compiled from source[s] which are believed to be reliable and accurate, Comerica Bank does not guarantee its accuracy. Consequently, it should not be considered a comprehensive statement on any matter nor be relied upon as such.

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