Risks in Cybersecurity

December 1, 2016

[photo by albert chau]
[photo by albert chau]

While cybersecurity is a hot topic for all, it is especially top-of-mind for financial communicators.

In their professional development session at the PRSA 2016 International Conference titled “Cybersecurity Risk in Financial Services: Staying a Step Ahead and Protecting Your Reputation” on Oct. 24, Marcia DiStaso, Ph.D., APR, a former stockbroker and Penn State associate professor of public relations, and Scott Farrell, president of global corporate communications at Golin, offered preventative measures to avoid a data breach and what to do in the wake of one.

The number of breaches is on the rise, as there were 3,141 confirmed data breaches in 2015, 2,100 in 2014 and 1,367 in 2013, according to data from Verizon. Nineteen percent of companies have experienced a breach in the past year, 44 percent have been through a breach and most important, 90 percent of companies feel vulnerable to one.

Farrell noted that 70 percent of companies are increasing spending to prevent breaches, and 62 percent are looking to implement data security for brand and reputation protection.

He then offered tips on how to prepare for a crisis:

  • Revisit your existing crisis plan...today.
  • Align with key functions/players e.g., CISO, IT and risk management.
  • Define your role and responsibility.
  • Become familiar with disclosure requirements.
  • Conduct simulations.

But if all else fails and there is a breach, Farrell said to “go easy on the backstory,” and don’t delay. Moving too slowly can quickly hurt companies.

“Speed is critical,” he said. “You have to be built for transparency and speed... The aftermath matters most.”

Vulnerabilities in financial services

“The very best defense is having a backup that is not connected to your machine in any way,” DiStaso said. “Storing things on the cloud or on a USB drive that’s plugged into your computer won’t cut it.”

People still fall victim to scam emails, or phishing, despite their seemingly obvious nature. A less overt circumstance known as whaling occurs when a scammer poses as someone you know, such as a higher-up executive. To avoid falling for this ploy, “think around it,” DiStaso counseled. Ask yourself, “Is this how I interact with this person?”

Renée Ruggeri
Renée Ruggeri is the editorial assistant for PRSA’s publications. Originally from Warwick, N.Y., she has bachelor’s degrees in English and journalism from the University of Richmond and a certificate in publishing from New York University.

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