How can I protect my data?

3 Step Data Breach Preparedness

The year of 2020 has seen an uptick in headlines regarding the dreaded data breach.  For quite some time cyber experts issued warnings to the business community about the importance of implementing minimal controls and investing in cybersecurity. Experts have also made a concerted effort to shift the paradigm away from if firms will experience a data breach to when a data breach will occur. If you haven’t already, it is imperative for the C-Suite to initiate candid conversations about prioritizing data privacy and practicing preparedness.  We will explore definitions, what’s at stake and immediate steps toward protecting your assets.

What is a data breach?

Over the course of one year, the exposure of sensitive data increased from 197.61 million records to 471.23 million records, according to Statista.   The main parties involved in data breaches are the organization experiencing the cyber-attack and the individuals with personally identifiable information (PII) stored on the organization’s database.  Third-party vendors have increasingly become involved in data breaches such as the case with Target and Delta. 

  • Data owner, organization experiencing the security breach via error, intent or negligence
  • Data user, end user of product or service providing confidential and sensitive information
  • Data holder, third-party vendor with access to or storing data. (Cloud services, law firms, bank, etc.)

Data breach by definition

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families defines a data breach as: a security violation in which sensitive, protected or confidential data is copied, transmitted, viewed, stolen or used by an individual unauthorized to do so.

Individuals, organized criminal enterprises, and national governments are commonly associated with a data breach.  Organizations are responsible for protecting data integrity on behalf of the consumer.  In the instance a buyer has a vendor, security agreements are executed.  Vendors failing to comply with security agreements, such as the case Delta and their chatbot vendor, find themselves in a messy lawsuit.  The vendor relationship may have added a layer of complexities in determining responsibility for a data breach, but it does not indemnify the data owner from consequences.   

There are several strategies attackers use to gain access to private information.  Security breaches include ransomware, malware, impersonation of an organization, and denial of service attacks (DDoS).   Malicious software such as viruses or spyware are occasionally exploited through email or downloads to gain access to protected networks.  

What’s at stake?

These instances may reveal data such as personally identifiable information (PII), personal non-public personal information (NPI), trade secrets, intellectual property, and more.  Since federal legislation has not successful passed, state legislation provides color for PII and NPI. 

3 Steps to Protecting Your Data

Integrating assessment reports into your current security routine is a simple solution to understanding your company’s current security controls and what to do next.  How your organization handles regulatory compliance and data privacy can have dire effects your company’s growth trajectory.  The ability to have a plan, respond quickly and restore data integrity are competitive advantages in an everchanging and fast-paced digital world.  Implementing necessary safeguards, continuous monitoring, and ensuring your vendors are compliant are all key solutions to protecting data from attackers. Here are some steps you can take now:

Step 1: Build your Understanding & Act with Urgency

The first step to protecting your data is building an understanding about the expansiveness of the changing digital landscape and acting with urgency.  Advancements such as artificial intelligence and 5G networks are not exclusive for the greater good. Using healthcare as an example, these advancements contribute to rapid and lifesaving improvements. The unintended consequences occur when criminals integrate these advancements into their toolbox.

Step 2: Implementing Assessments into Cyber Routine

Businesses and organizations are urged to find practical solutions to develop or expand their data management practices in order to reduce the impacts of new digital threats. Assessments are tools used to actively manage security programs.   Organizations should weight their options to determine if self-assessments or independent assessments work best for their needs.   Performing assessments is a starting point and should be performed routinely.  Assessments are valuable because they:

  • Providing an overview of your firm’s current security program,
  • Provide clear guidelines and prioritize actions by urgency to aid in improving security controls
  • Establish and demonstrate a history of implementing corrective measures after an incident
  • Effective document management required in some industries during audits and/or legal matters

Step 3: Perform assessments routinely

It is important to stress that simply performing one assessment is not enough. Please note, assessments are point-in-time. Cyber criminals are constantly renewing their efforts to increase their success rate to breach organizations who are slow to plug known gaps and vulnerabilities.  Management must be proactive and practice diligence in order to  protect the integrity of their data.  Routine risk management assessments are recommended annually in order to build and maintain defenses against cyber threats but may need to be executed more frequently depending on your situation.

After an assessment is performed, a report is generated.  The reports act as a guide, assigning high, medium, and low priority to each item deemed vulnerable to exploitation. Organizations using a well-developed independent assessment tool to examine and enhance existing procedures, policies and controls will find they are prepared to act immediately when an incident occurs. The ability to identify and neutralize the threat quickly results in less access to data and less damage to your bottom line. 

Assessments: How do they work and for whom?

Assessments are usually composed of systematic set of methodologies used to analyze, gather and evaluate an organization’s security frameworks.  To accurately diagnose a situation, an assessment tool should incorporate the roles of the people, processes, technologies and vendors.  Each role must be considered in order to provide a wholistic overview and make informed decisions.

How to know if your organization is ready to incorporate assessments into your security plan:    

Assessments provide an overview into security controls and security maturity.   The report also includes a comprehensive set of initiatives to follow and execute to obtain your organization’s predetermined goal.  Organizations seeking alignment with best practices stand to gain substantial value from an assessment.


Assessments can be deployed at each phase of the business cycle.  Startups are expected to implement a security program to protect their intellectual property, trademarks, and endpoints as early possible. Your ability to build and maintain consumer trust weighs heavily on brand awareness.  Today, more consumers perform diligence and seek assurances their data will be protected.  If customers find your company has experienced a data breach it could harm your reputational brand, sales could suffer, or worse.

If your organization is B2B, enterprise customers expect your company to understand compliance, data privacy, and industry best practices.  Show customers and stakeholders your commitment to generate value and limit liabilities with exceptionally managed assessments.  Invest in a scalable cybersecurity program that will understand your needs and support your initiatives.

Private Equity

During mergers and acquisitions, organizations perform due diligence prior to the integration process of a new company.  Working to implement a security protocol early and systematically throughout the organization ensures business/IT continuity.

Established Companies

Established companies and their data officers understand the value of an extensive security program.  Most have experienced several waves and shifts in technology.  Data managers are also aware digital threats will continue to grow in sophistication and volume.   The shift to an all remote staff created an ideal situation for cyber criminals taking advantage of the pandemic.  There have been dozens of reports citing a surge in cyber hacking activity. 

Several federal and cybersecurity experts have sounded the alarm in an attempt to warn organizations to take these new digital threats seriously. Assessment tools enhance a team’s arsenal with advanced capabilities to monitor, react, and respond to an incident quickly.  

Audits.  Some companies depend on annual audits or have been audited after an incident.  They are expected to remediate and report back to industry regulators within a specific timeframe. Unfortunately, an audit does not continuously monitor nor does it provide the same depth and detail within an assessment report.    An assessment provides, a full scope analysis, a roadmap to remediation, and central location for document management. 

New technological advancements, coupled with a national pandemic have sharply increased of the number of remote users, new devices, and an increased volume of data.  While compliance officers are working diligently to ensure their company is operating within the industry standards, the vastness and complexity of all of these variables created a perfect storm.  Cyber criminals are taking advantage of the opportunity.  Having one location to manage internal operating standards, new and rapidly evolving consumer protections, and succession planning enables organizations to run optimally. 

If your organization is on the hunt for custom enterprise risk management tools or is in the processes of enhancing your security programs, the value add of a well-developed cybersecurity assessment tool may be apparent.  CISO LABS understands the needs of entrepreneurs, management teams, and organizations ready to take next steps.

At CISO LABS, our tools and custom enterprise risk management solutions are supporting our client’s critical needs.   If your team is seeking to establish or enhance your security programs and strengthen your compliance and privacy strategies, we strongly recommend implementing the steps listed above. 

Highly regulated industries with complex compliance and privacy policies pending understand the importance of preparedness around guidelines, self-audits, remediation plans, and training. Although it can be an exhaustive process as data privacy, regulatory policies and the use 3rd party vendors expand and gain more public visibility, having one central location for document management prepares firms for national disasters, pandemics, or biological warfare, ect.

In closing, organizations enhancing security programs and preparing contingency plans must remain diligent in the efforts to protect their best interest – CISO LABS is a trusted partner poised to provide high touch service and a range of solutions to meet your needs.

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