Cybersecurity as a Business Enabler

Modern businesses have to embrace technological innovation to remain relevant and competitive on the market. However, cybercrime is a threat to organizations that have implemented digital systems. Due to the growing cases of data breaches, some business owners are reluctant to adopt technology into their operations.

Studies reveal that cybercriminals managed to compromise more than $5 billion worth of sensitive records in 2018. To make matters worse, hackers are attacking with more sophisticated techniques each year. They have also widened their dragnets, targeting everyone from home computers, small businesses, corporates, and even government agencies.

All the same, organizations cannot afford to disregard technology in this era just because of the risks involved. Instead of dwelling on threats, they should focus on what cybersecurity brings to a business. 

© CGI

How Is Cybersecurity a Business Enabler?

Let’s see how embedding cybersecurity to the business strategy benefits organizations.

Attracting and Retaining Customers

Cyberattacks and data breaches have become regular topics in boardroom discussions and news headlines. When a business falls victim, the information spreads fast, and most people lose confidence with the affected organization.

Regardless of the size of a business or the industry, customers and vendors are comfortable transacting with you when you have robust and provable data security infrastructure. One survey suggested that 90% of organizations believed that heightening information security builds the reputation of a business as well as customer loyalty. Some managers consider it the competitive differentiator which wins customers. 

Consumer trust has a pivotal role in business growth and product acceptance. If customers don’t believe in the security of your systems, you’ll lose business. Everybody wants to trade with a transparent organization with a clean track record and dedication to protecting customer data. Loyal customers are a potential source of more business through referrals.

Less Restrictive Preventative Controls

High-tech corporates are keen to hire smart talent capable of rapid innovation. These employees, however, face many restrictive checks and balances on the job, which hinders them from doing their best. For instance, the Chief Information Security Officer might demand that every piece of software undergoes an audit before execution.

Some employees are not comfortable with highly restrictive controls. When they have great ideas to implement, they often bypass the corporate systems and do things their way, which brings about the shadow IT culture. Even with good intentions, they could turn to unapproved tools and solutions, but such actions can compromise data security in the organization.

A defensive approach to cyber threats doesn’t always work since hackers can go around them. They also shortchange a business’s growth potential by restricting smart employees from getting the best out of their knowhow.

Cybersecurity is not negotiable, and businesses should do it within the highest standards because threats affect the entire organization. But instead of looking at security as a means of protection alone, managers should think of how it can increase efficiency in the business. 

How can they achieve this? More of the IT budget should go to threat detection and response rather than prevention. By so doing, the security department can reduce their preventative controls to allow the more innovative worker to operate with more freedom. The Information Security Officer will rest easy, knowing they detect and thwart threats while the organization reaps the best from its personnel.

More Business Productivity

A successful cyberattack can be a bottleneck to productivity by hindering employees and partners from accessing the systems. A distributed denial of service (DDoS) can disrupt business operations indefinitely, costing the organization and clients hours or weeks of productivity before recovery.

After a ransomware attack on Norsk Hydro in 2019, the aluminum producing company had to spend more than £45 million in recovery. Most world leaders in artificial intelligence and robotics rank the disruption of manufacturing or operations as the most disastrous repercussion of cybercrime. 

By laying down robust security measures, organizations can operate without the fear of attacks that would slow them down or reduce their productivity. Businesses with fool-proof security enjoy sustainable operations and performance. They have a competitive advantage above their counterparts who get attacked unaware. 

Improved Business Agility

Technology is leveling the ground for various players in different industries. For instance, e-commerce has enabled small scale merchants to compete with international stores on online platforms. Organizations that have accepted digital transformation are creating innovative products and services through cutting edge technologies, giving them an upper hand on the market.

To stay in business, entrepreneurs have no option but to implement the best technology they can find. According to experts, the ongoing digital disruption will displace business leaders who lag in the technological race in the next few years.

In a study involving c-suite executives, 69% of the respondents described digitization as a vital part of an organization’s growth strategy. Cybersecurity, according to 64% of the interviewees, was seen as a significant factor in the success of various business models and digital products.

However, some of the managers cited cyberthreats to be a hindrance to innovation in their companies. 40% of them said they had aborted some of their mission-critical initiatives over cybersecurity concerns.

Firms that curtail technology due to security concerns won’t be innovative enough to survive competition in the long run. The only way to fully spearhead growth is to accept the digital transformation and take advantage of its growth opportunities backed with reliable cybersecurity.

Companies committed to information security can confidently explore different digital business models and offerings. As a result, they can accelerate innovation and spare more time to market their products and services. 

Smooth Integration with Different Partners 

One drawback to the creation and development of robust customer and partner ecosystems is the lack of consistency in network policies across different environments. Most businesses want to integrate various distributors, outsourcers, vendors, suppliers, and other partners into a single harmonized IT infrastructure for easier management.

Such a system should allow parties in one organization to access resources, information, and applications of a partner quickly and safely. For this to happen, the business needs to do a thorough penetration test to evaluate the risk.

The assessment helps organizations to determine whether their partner’s security posture is up to standards. After confirmation, a business can expand and integrate with the partner’s supply chain and ecosystem more tightly. The resulting relationship considerably broadens the range of services available for its online users and partners.

With a stable identity federation service, companies can be open to new and more promising business opportunities. It can also increase an organization’s agility and help it adapt to the dynamic digital world. Advanced cybersecurity may also help firms to smoothly adjust to new organizational structures such as mergers and acquisitions.

Enhanced Business Credibility and Reputation

Customers share sensitive information about themselves with merchants assuming there are proper structures to safeguard it. They don’t expect misuse or unnecessary exposure to unauthorized parties. Therefore, businesses must be proactive in matters of cybersecurity. 

The corporate brand is an essential asset for most businesses, and reputation has a significant influence on it. When a security infringement goes to the public domain, the results are often catastrophic to the organization. It can even get you out of business.  

A single compromising event like a data breach is enough to damage the best of reputations. After an arduous and expensive struggle, many organizations recover from the brunt of data breaches. However, regaining the trust of customers and rebuilding a diminished reputation resulting from a cyberattack is tricky.

According to a PwC report, 85% of customers won’t buy from a business if they don’t trust their data security practices. Another survey by OnePoll indicated that 86.55% of the 2,000 respondents interviewed wouldn’t do business with an organization that experienced an attack involving payment cards. When asked about the theft of telephone numbers and email addresses, the figures went down slightly but remained significant. 

Seeing how a breach can take a toll on your reputation, you must keep your corporate resources secure and private. Only authorized personnel should access them when needed, and strictly for approved actions alone. The status of cybersecurity in the entire business environment can build or ruin your credibility. 

© Photo by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels

Improved Customer Relationships

Customers want quality service and high responsiveness from the firms with which they transact. An excellent way to keep them satisfied and maintain their loyalty is to ensure they have a superb experience whenever they interact with your business.

One critical component of customer experience is how visitors interact with your business website. Having a site optimized for the services it offers is indispensable. The resources must also be available at all times. The modern client is impatient, and they’ll move business elsewhere when your system is inaccessible.

It takes prudent security measures to ensure that your online services are available round-the-clock. Cybersecurity will help to prevent the degradation of service levels and quality, which in turn will enhance customer satisfaction.  

A Data Breach Can Lead to Chargebacks and Fines

After a successful data breach, a myriad of financial implications often befall business organizations. If your system is vulnerable, fraudsters can penetrate and place unauthorized transactions on your customers’ payment cards. Consumers can use chargeback to dispute such transactions and secure refunds, and you’ll be responsible for the compensation.

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards Council can enforce penalties and fines in the wake of an information infringement. Additional levies may come from card network brands and regulatory agencies.

Another repercussion of breaches is the requirement for your business to perform forensic investigations to identify the cause and extent of the attack. These investigations can be overly expensive in the short term. However, they usually uncover valuable evidence and insights that the organization can utilize to avert future attacks.

Additionally, the business may have to incur continuous security costs related to compulsory credit monitoring for the victim clients. Other expenses might include the cost of card replacement, further industry compliance requirements, and identity theft repair.

Making the Best Out of Cybersecurity

We have seen how cybersecurity acts as a business enabler, but how can you make it work for your organization? The first step toward securing your system is understanding cyber vulnerabilities, types of attacks, and how to intensify your cybersecurity. 

Types of Cyber Vulnerabilities

A system becomes vulnerable when it has a weakness that an attacker can access and exploit. Cyber vulnerabilities are unlimited. We will focus on a few of them.

Exposure of Sensitive Data

Data exposure is a result of the failure of an application to protect sensitive data sufficiently, thereby revealing it to unauthorized parties. Reasons for this flaw include but are not limited to lack of encryption and weak key generation.

Injection Vulnerabilities

This weakness is common in applications that allow queries that communicate directly with a back-end database, such as SQL. An intruder can execute a malicious command to change the path of execution. As a result, the program might generate sensitive data and present it to cybercriminals.

Broken Authentication & Session Management 

Since there are many authentication modes available, this weakness is somewhat hard to eliminate. Each user may use a different method, but attackers have multiple ways of bypassing various mechanisms. Attackers can reuse an old session token to trick the server that you didn’t log out, for example. That might grant them unlimited access to your account.

Improper Security Configuration

Misconfiguration is one of the most widespread and riskiest issues that leave many systems susceptible to attacks. It can happen at any level, including the platform, framework, application server, web server, database, and so on. Simple configuration mistakes include:

  • Failure to customize settings (like using default passwords)
  • Running unnecessary services 
  • Using outdated software
  • Incorrect exception management

Such errors can make it easy for attackers to penetrate and obtain system information. Hackers can use software tools to identify misconfigured systems online.

Buffer Overflow

Operating system codes often have ideal loopholes for hackers known as buffer overflows. Even with well-defined memory layout and buffer space, anomalies sometimes occur, leading to too much data output or buffer overflow. Attackers can load malicious code on the overflow space and potentially penetrate the system.

Types of Cyber Attacks

Cybercriminals have different approaches, and there is never enough information to cover them all. As technology evolves, so do cyberattacks. But you can stay on top of cybersecurity by monitoring your system and sealing vulnerabilities continuously. Let’s look at a few of the attacks observed today.

Malware

Malware is an inclusionary term for viruses, trojans, worms, and spyware. They come as malicious software or code designed to steal data or corrupt your system. Free downloads and email attachments are well-known for harboring malware. You’ll even find some embedded in trusted websites.

Ransomware

Ransomware has become one of the most preferred cyberattack tools in recent years. It’s a malware that encrypts your data effectively, holding it hostage until you pay a ransom. Without a decryption key, your files are inaccessible.

If you don’t heed to the attacker’s conditions, they usually threaten to obliterate the data. It’s hard to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators since they typically demand payment in cryptocurrency, which means they can be difficult to track down. 

Phishing

Most phishing attacks exploit emails. The attacker designs emails that might look legit to the recipients asking them to open a link and enter some information. The email may appear as if it’s from your bank, for example, prompting you to verify your details.

Filling out the required fields means giving up your data. Nowadays, institutions like banks insist that they don’t ask for personal information via email. However, there is still a chance of a naive employee falling victim to this stunt.

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)

A DDoS attack aims to disrupt service on your system. Attackers use many hijacked computers to send enormous amounts of traffic through your network until it fails due to congestion. In most cases, owners of the hijacked devices don’t realize what’s happening in the background. 

Rogue Software

Cybercriminals may also use rogue software to strike. These are malicious programs masquerading as useful tools made for functions like security or performance boosting. They may also come as pop-ups posing as software updates. Users who consent to such alerts install the rogue software unknowingly.

Man in the Middle

This cyberattack tactic works by a hacker impersonating two endpoints of an electronic data exchange system. The man in the middle breaks the original communication channel and sits in-between. For instance, they can pretend to be your bank communicating with you and impersonate you interacting with your bank.

If successful, the man in the middle steals sensitive information. You can minimize the chances of such an attack by insisting on HTTPS connections and encrypted wireless networks.

Final Word

Information security is critical to any business organization. Consumers want a merchant they can trust with their sensitive information. With doubts about your data security standards, customers will avoid your business, leading to lost sales and revenues.

Inadequate cybersecurity will not only hurt your business but also bring about compliance issues and legal consequences. Failure to protect cardholder information, for example, will leave you in contravention with PCI DSS. Breaking the stringent rules of the European Union’s GDPR may lead to harsh regulatory sanctions and fines.

Businesses that emphasize cybersecurity become more innovative and productive, protect their reputation, and enjoy customer loyalty. They gain a competitive edge over those that get attacked or restrain digitization for fear of security threats.

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