If your business is highly regulated, like in the financial services sector or legal professions, your IT requirement presents some unique challenges. Cyber security and data compliance are a priority for any organisation, but when your business activities are centered on sensitive and personal information they are imperative. The consequences of non-compliance or data breaches are even more significant, with hefty fines being handed out by the regulators and serious implications for your organisation’s reputation.
I work with a number of clients in regulated businesses, particularly in the financial services industry, and through this relationship understand the key challenges they face when it comes to IT. On the one hand is a need to be ‘always up’; providing clients with access to their accounts, enabling consultants to manage documents anytime / anywhere, and maintaining communications across different networks. In a fast-paced and competitive business it is essential that downtime be minimised and that an organisation’s IT supports this.
However, this has to be balanced with security and data protection. Not only is there the very serious aspect of regulatory compliance, but also the issue of customer trust and confidence. While you may be able to swallow the cost of a regulatory fine, can you really afford to lose valuable clients and your reputation because of a data breach?
Cyber attacks not only compromise your clients’ data, they also have an impact on your ability to do business. It may be necessary to withdraw access to IT systems while dealing with the fallout of a cyber attack and this naturally will affect your clients and members of staff.
5 Steps To Balance Compliance And Accessibility
When working with regulated businesses we encourage our clients to take these five steps to ensure that data is not compromised and IT systems are ‘always up’:
- Cyber Security Policy: A rigorous cyber security policy will help you identify those areas that could be at risk and put preventative measures in place. This should address how both employees and clients use networks and systems. For example, you may have members of staff logging in remotely from different devices, or using the Internet for both business and recreation.
- Awareness, Training and Communication: Data breaches may be caused by malicious or criminal attack, system glitch or human error, and can often be prevented by raising awareness of cyber security issues and putting proper training in place for all members of staff. Do your employees understand what an email phishing attack involves, what about ‘soft exits’ such as leaving sensitive documents open in public places such as the local Starbucks?
- Web Filtering and Monitoring: Preventative measures such as web filtering can block malware before it has even entered your network, as well as identifying machines that have been infected with malicious spyware, nuisance adware or phishing attacks, and monitoring how employees are using the network. This can also help reinforce IT usage policies.
- Outsourcing: One key challenge that many businesses face is that a proactive approach to maintaining and monitoring their IT systems to ensure productivity, takes the IT team away from driving business growth and development in other areas. Staffing can also be an issue for some organisations that do not have enough experienced IT managers or technicians to keep these business critical systems up. It therefore can be expedient to outsource this area of a business’ IT to a service provider with regulatory experience in your sector.
- Business Continuity Plan: While prevention is always better than cure, if you do suffer a cyber attack or an IT outage, a business continuity plan is essential for putting failovers services into action, reducing downtime and getting systems up as quickly as possible.
You may also like to read our post on The Cost Of Data Security Breaches To UK Businesses.
If you would like to discuss any of this with me, or member of the team, please get in touch. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0330 124 3599.