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Risk Exposure: Three Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Company

March 23, 2017

Risk Exposure: Three Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Company


There is no such thing as a completely secure enterprise and never will be, and attempting to create one is both futile and counterproductive. Instead of reaching towards infallibility, effective enterprise information security strategies rely on a careful balancing of risk and reward. As you work to secure your customers' systems and data, keep these three steps in mind to help them minimize their risk exposure without sacrificing efficiency or productivity.

1. Carefully evaluate and classify all of the customer's data assets

You can't minimize risk exposure without knowing what, exactly, is at risk. That's why an effective information security strategy must always begin with a meticulous cataloguing of the data assets at stake. As you evaluate your customers' data assets, consider the following:

  • The value of the data to outside parties, should they be stolen or disclosed (consumer financial information, such as credit card numbers, is of particularly high value in the criminal marketplace)

  • The value of the data to the organization and its competitors (here, pay close attention to confidential corporate information, such as financial data, and proprietary research, development, design, and process documentation)

  • The damage that loss, theft, or disclosure of the data would cause to the company's ability to do business

  • Whether the data is protected and/or the use of the data governed by any laws or industry regulations, such as HIPPA, PCI-DSS, SOX, GLBA, or the EU's Data Protection Directive

2. Decrease internal risk exposure by locking down and monitoring access to sensitive data

The greatest danger to an organization's data security often comes from within, thanks both to malicious insiders and well-meaning employees who make mistakes. BYOD and shadow IT greatly increase the danger. Once the most high-risk data has been identified, access to that data should be locked down to a strict "need-to-know" basis and carefully monitored by administrators using tools like Data Loss Prevention (DLP). Such measures will help decrease the risk of high-value data being inappropriately or inadvertently exposed.

3. Assess the risk exposure of proposed third-party solutions before adoption

In the past few years, IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, and cloud computing in general have significantly cut costs and improved business processes for forward-thinking enterprises. Unfortunately, cloud services can also expose businesses to greater data security risk. Help your customers minimize their external risk exposure by assessing proposed third-party and cloud technology solutions from a data security perspective. Will the solutions require access to high-value data? How will sensitive data be secured on third party infrastructure? Advise against the adoption of third-party solutions that put sensitive data at too much risk.

Almost every new technology or application that targets the enterprise carries with it at least some risk, but it is never advisable for organizations to actively avoid all risks. When they do so, they also lose out on numerous opportunities to streamline and optimize their processes and cut their capital operating costs. In short, total risk avoidance leads to a loss of competitive edge. Instead, organizations must find ways to minimize risks while still adopting the new technologies that make sense. Help them do so by identifying where their risk exposure lies and finding ways to address it.

What are some other steps to help them minimize your customers risk exposure? Tell us in the comments below.