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Top 5 Cybersecurity Challenges in Professional Services and How to Overcome Them

“Cybersecurity” is one of those words that’s bandied about so often, we forget just how important it actually is. While cyber-attacks are arguably the most pressing concern, there are other difficulties: unskilled IT security personnel, remote working environments, and regulatory compliance all bring nuance to the field.

Professional services organizations regularly are confronted by these issues; IT is used in nearly all aspects to deliver services to customers, but rarely is the IT realm itself focused on.

This guide will explore the top five cybersecurity challenges professional services grapple with, suggest tactics to avoid them, and in the event that the challenge becomes a real-life encounter, offer solutions to get through unscathed.

Challenge 1: Ransomware

Ransomware refers to a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system or files until a sum of money – the ransom – is paid. This translates to a potential standstill in operations, compromising both client data and organizational workflows.

For professional services, ransomware is a particularly insidious threat, crippling service delivery and eroding customer trust. In February 2022, US megacorporation Nvidia was compromised by a ransomware group that threatened to leak an alleged highly confidential 1TB of data stolen if Nvidia didn’t pay a ransom.

Preventative Measures

Data Backups: Establish a consistent schedule for backing up essential data. By ensuring that vital information is stored securely in an alternate location, your organization is secure against total data loss during a ransomware attack.

Software Updates: Ensure all software and systems are updated as soon as a patch is released. Regular updates refine functionality and fix vulnerabilities, shielding against known exploit routes that ransomware operators may leverage.

Employee Education: Develop or invest in a comprehensive training program to elevate staff awareness about ransomware. Empowering your staff with the knowledge to discern and sidestep potential threats reduces the risk of inadvertent system compromise.

Solutions

Cybersecurity framework: Deploying a comprehensive cybersecurity framework is your first line of defense. The right security solutions can identify, contain, and neutralize threats within the system before they can cause damage.

Incident Response Plan (IRP): A cohesive IRP delineates clear protocols to follow in the event of an attack, including threat response, data recovery, and contingency operations. The plan enables your team to perform rapid, well-executed actions that mitigate the damage.

Professional Consultation: Engaging with cybersecurity professionals, like a managed service provider (MSP), can furnish your organization with expert insights, quick solutions, and support. This can prove particularly invaluable in navigating through the aftermath of an attack and fortifying defenses against future threats.

Challenge 2: Skills Gap

The term “skills gap” refers to the disparity between the technical capabilities of your workforce, and the skills required to safeguard against threats. Within professional services, this gap can manifest as a tangible vulnerability, potentially leaving organizations susceptible to an array of cyber-attacks and breaches.

Professional services are becoming increasingly reliant on digital platforms to deliver their services. This means the skills gap poses a formidable challenge, impinging on an organization’s ability to safeguard sensitive client data and maintain defenses.

Preventative Measures

Team Training: Initiating comprehensive training programs to enhance the cybersecurity skills of the existing workforce will steadily diminish the skills gap of your team. This includes online workshops and training courses, or even attending in-person cybersecurity conferences and exhibitions.

Security Audits: Vulnerability assessments and cybersecurity audits will reveal any network weaknesses, unpatched software, or other overlooked risks your in-house team may have overlooked.

Solutions

External Expertise: As mentioned, MSPs can bring your cybersecurity framework up to standard, while your internal team undergoes training. Some MSPs also offer cyber training.

Boot Camps: Enroll your team in intensive training programs or crash courses that offer rapid skills development to realign their knowledge and abilities with your organization’s needs.

Challenge 3: Phishing

Phishing attacks are deceptive attempts to trick individuals into revealing sensitive information, such as passwords or credit card numbers. These attacks usually come in the form of emails masquerading as a trustworthy entity, asking the recipient to send information or click on a link.

The ramifications of a successful phishing attack can be severe; in 2022, US-based victims lost over a combined $52 million. Professional services firms are particularly susceptible to phishing attacks with their reliance on digital communication to coordinate projects, share data, and interact with clients.

Preventative Measures

Cyber Awareness: As mentioned, training employees how to recognize and respond to potential phishing attempts is crucial. Most phishing attempts can be easily spotted when people know what to look for – spelling errors, URLS, and double-checking the senders’ identity.

Email Filtering: Advanced email filtering solutions can identify and quarantine potential phishing emails, reducing the likelihood of them reaching an employee’s inbox.

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Implementing MFA adds an additional layer of security, ensuring that even if login credentials are compromised, unauthorized access is prevented through a secondary verification step.

Solutions

Incident Response Plan: Your IRP should be created with steps to address phishing attacks, such as communicating with stakeholders and suspending compromised accounts.

Data Encryption: Scramble data into unreadable formats so it can’t be read without the right decryption key, rendering it incomprehensible to malicious actors.

Challenge 4: Remote Working

Remote and hybrid working models bring many benefits to employees and organizations alike – but they also present some new cybersecurity challenges. The utilization of personal devices, unsecured home networks, and the blending of professional and personal devices can expose organizations to potential cyber incidents.

The only preventative measure against remote working is – not permitting it. For most organizations, this is not feasible: many professionals have become accustomed to accessing business resources and responding to work emails from their personal devices, even if they work in an office full time.

Solutions

Virtual Private Network (VPN): Implementing a VPN for all remote connections to ensure that data transmission is encrypted and secure, reducing the risk of data interception.

Collaboration Tools: Secure and verify all business communication and collaboration tools, as well as data storage applications.

Device Management: These policies ensure all devices accessing organizational data are securely configured, regularly updated, and monitored for potential threats.

Challenge 5: Regulatory Compliance

All organizations must adhere to laws, policies, and regulations established to protect data and privacy in the digital realm. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) are several regulatory bodies that professional services organizations may be bound by, depending on their industry.

Non-compliance can result in severe consequences, such as hefty fines, lawsuits, and the erosion of client trust and reputational damage.

Preventative Measures

Compliance Management: Implement tools that monitor, manage, and report on data handling and processing to ensure continual adherence to relevant regulations.

Legal Counsel: Regular consultations with legal experts will ensure that your organization is up-to-date with changes in data protection laws and regulations, adapting practices accordingly.

Solutions

Incident Response: Implement your IRP, mobilizing a team to manage the immediate fallout of the non-compliance.

Communication: Starting the conversation quickly and communicating clearly with all stakeholders (clients, partners, regulatory bodies) about the non-compliance will show honesty and integrity in the face of an incident.

Legal Counsel: Engage legal counsel to understand and address the ramifications of the non-compliance, as well as mitigate the legal consequences.

Prevent and Solve Cybersecurity Challenges with Expert Guidance

Through a blend of proactive strategies and robust solutions, professional services organizations can secure their digital domains, foster a culture of awareness, and ensure compliance with regulations.

The cybersecurity specialists at Skynet will deploy, optimize, and manage the right security solutions and tools you need to ensure business continuity, and safeguard against malicious activity. Talk to us today.

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