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The Cybersecurity Risks of Mergers and Acquisitions

Thursday, February 2nd, 2023

In tough economic times, many businesses go through mergers and acquisitions to improve their financial prospects. However, this process can put organizations’ sensitive data at risk. In this article, we discuss the cybersecurity risks of mergers and acquisitions. According to a report by Forescout, 62 percent of participants agreed that their company faces significant cybersecurity risks by acquiring new companies and expressed that cyber risk is their biggest concern post-acquisition.

cybersecurity risks of mergers and acquisitions

Before M&A: Assess Cybersecurity Risk

Even before mergers and acquisitions are announced, it can be a vulnerable time for a company’s data. Leakage of sensitive company data, like confidential financial information, can be catastrophic to negotiations. As a result, this makes companies considering a merger or acquisition highly susceptible to hacking.

Internal threats are also likely to increase. Employees not involved in negotiations may learn about merger talks and have some incentive to leak data to the press or to criminals to stop the process. It is essential to protect all communications relating to merger discussions.

The most significant risk of a merger is not doing cyber due diligence on the company being acquired. Risk analysis needs to be a part of negotiation talks. Most organizations being merged or acquired are smaller, with low levels of sophistication, and may lack mature cybersecurity programs. You need to understand the potential risks your company may be inheriting to prepare to address them properly. Security personnel need to be included in M&A talks to ask the right questions, audit systems, and prepare for integration.

Addressing Risk During Integration

Once a company merges with another, the risks to sensitive data increase. Highly sophisticated threat actors target M&A activities because, with operations in transition, high-value data is often vulnerable. 

The Technology Risks of Mergers and Acquisitions

In 2019, the IBM Institute for Business Value surveyed 720 executives responsible for the merger and acquisition functions at acquirer organizations. More than one in three said they experienced data breaches that can be attributed to M&A activity during integration.

IT changes may be extensive and cannot all take place at once. It’s essential to take time to fully understand inherited policies, equipment, and procedures before making rapid changes. Enterprise IT projects take time to plan and complete without disrupting day-to-day operations.

IT teams will deal with a new mix of assets, technologies, processes, and organizational culture during integration. Risks continue to evolve during the initial period of change as they learn more about inherited systems and processes. They may also be overwhelmed by integration tasks integral to day-to-day operations, so that security tasks may be a lower priority. It’s incredibly important to prioritize security and have a well-organized transition to ensure that sensitive data is not exposed.

The Personnel Risks of Mergers and Acquisitions

Changing personnel can also create gaps in your security program. Employees with institutional knowledge may leave the company, meaning crucial processes and procedures must be re-documented and updated. If teams are understaffed in essential areas, they may take shortcuts that leave sensitive data exposed.

Staff burnout and uncertainty from the transition can also lead employees to make mistakes. Phishing and business email compromise threats are prevalent in the early days of a merger or acquisition. People may report to new managers and fall prey to social engineering-style attacks because of their unfamiliarity with new reporting lines and company hierarchy.

It’s important to prioritize security training and update all employees on policies after a merger occurs. Clearing up ambiguity helps to reduce risk and builds trust in the organization.

How to Reduce Cybersecurity Risk During a Merger or Acquisition

Utilizing basic email security features like filtering and message encryption can go a long way to protect sensitive data and limit risks. Whenever confidential information is shared, it should occur through secure or encrypted channels. Leaked information can lead to negative consequences and volatility.

The best way to reduce risk is to plan for it. It’s critical to thoroughly understand the risks you will inherit by merging with or acquiring another company. This should include thoroughly reviewing risk assessments and IT systems and even bringing in a third-party to assess their cybersecurity. The time to find out about these liabilities is before the merger occurs, not on day one. 

4 Security Tips for Cybersecurity Awareness Month

Wednesday, October 26th, 2022

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and it’s worth taking a minute to reflect on your security stance and what you can do better to protect sensitive data and accounts.

cybersecurity awareness month tips

The Current State of Cybersecurity in 2022

Cybersecurity incidents and data breaches continue to increase across all industries. A 2022 report noted a 42% increase in cyberattacks for the first half of 2022 compared to the same period in 2021.

The healthcare sector also continues to be a target. The same report noted a 69% increase in cyberattacks targeting the healthcare sector. The Office of Civil Rights also noted that breaches affecting 500 or more individuals increased from 663 in 2020 to 714 in 2021.

Even more concerning, 74% of the breaches reported to OCR in 2021 involved hacking or IT incidents. In the healthcare sector, hacking represents the greatest threat to the privacy and security of PHI. Organizations must take the threat seriously and take concrete steps to protect their systems.

4 Essential Steps for Better Cybersecurity

So what can you do to avoid falling victim to a cyberattack? The Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) recommends these four essential steps that all employees can take to protect their accounts.

Watch Out for Phishing Scams

Think before you click! Educate employees on common phishing tactics, create policies to help reduce risk, and invest in tools that flag suspicious emails. Phishing tactics are successful because they prey on common human impulses to manipulate individuals into taking quick actions.

Teaching employees what to look out for and putting in place email filtering systems to flag suspicious senders and links can drastically reduce your risk and the probability of your organization falling victim to a hacking incident.

Update Software

Many people find software updates annoying and snooze them for as long as possible. However, many software updates include security patches for recently identified vulnerabilities. By not updating to the latest version, it leaves your organization vulnerable to attacks.   

Use Strong Passwords

It’s an obvious tip to many security professionals, but many people still use weak passwords that are easy to guess. Today it is easier than ever to crack simple passwords using dictionary attacks or finding credentials on the dark web.

Employees should use unique passwords for each account. In addition, passwords should be:

  • Randomly generated
  • Use a combination of letters, numbers, and characters
  • At least ten characters
  • Stored securely in a password manager
  • Not shared with other employees

Enable Multifactor Authentication

As we mentioned above, cracking passwords is getting easier, especially if employees are not using strong, complex credentials. Enabling multifactor authentication adds another layer of security to account logins. Multifactor authentication requires users to present two or more credentials to log in to their accounts. The first factor required is a typical username and password. The second factor is usually a code contained within a text, email, or push notification. The user must enter this numerical code to confirm that they are logging into the account. Even if your username or password is compromised, a hacker will not be able to access the account without that second factor. It’s wise to require the use of multifactor authentication, especially for accounts that contain sensitive data. 

Conclusion

Of course, these tips only scratch the surface of a successful security and compliance program. To get started, complete a risk assessment to identify gaps and areas to improve. LuxSci is here to help improve your email security.

How Email Filtering Prevents Cyberattacks

Tuesday, September 20th, 2022

Almost every business uses email as a primary communication channel, and as a result, it is a major attack vector for cybercriminals. Every employee’s email account represents a possible risk to your business operations. One way to protect employee accounts is with email filtering tools.

email filtering

The Risks of Email Communications

Email is a necessary business communication tool. However, it also introduces significant risks. A 2019 HIMSS survey found that 70% of breaches originated with a phishing email. It’s unrealistic to stop people from using email, so the next best step is protecting accounts and reducing risk.

Social Engineering Risks

The number one threat to any cybersecurity program is human error. Phishing campaigns are so successful because they prey on human vulnerabilities. Everyone makes mistakes. Even the most cautious people can be caught up in a busy day and accidentally click on a malicious link without adequately vetting the sender.

By stopping these malicious emails from entering the employee’s inbox, there is no chance they will mistakenly click on them. Although phishing training is still essential in case emails get through the system, a good email filtering service will stop most suspicious messages.

What is Email Filtering?

Email filtering tools prevent malicious messages like spam from reaching inboxes. Filtering tools scan the incoming emails for signs of cybercrime- these could include bad links, content used by known spammers, or other indicators. Email filtering stops suspicious emails from being delivered to the intended recipient.

How Email Filtering Works to Stop Spam

There are many ways to filter emails, some of which are more restrictive than others. Every email filtering service is different, so we are speaking in generalities for informative purposes. However, the process works the same way. All incoming emails are scanned to see if they contain any information that violates the filter settings. Traditionally, the filter scans both the email header and the message contents.

The email header contains information about the sender, including their IP address, email domain, sending address, security signatures, and other technical information about how and when the email was sent. Email filters will flag messages sent from suspicious senders and known spammers. Email filters can be so restrictive as to entirely stop incoming emails from external organizations or domains.

Filtering systems also scan email message contents. Phishing schemes rely on unsuspecting users clicking on links to install malware on a user’s computer. Email filtering systems can scan and remove links to known suspicious websites. Organizations can go further and configure their filtering systems to remove all links in emails. This may be too restrictive for some, but it is an option for some filtering tools. In addition,  scanners can flag emails for spammy content. Some commonly flagged messages include overly promotional marketing emails, messages with adult themes, and those that mention illegal activities.

Once the suspicious emails are flagged, then what happens? The settings are often configurable. Some email filtering systems add a banner to the top of scanned messages that alerts the user to any risky-seeming content. However, once users are accustomed to seeing it, they may ignore or not notice the warnings.

The most common solution is to divert flagged emails to quarantine. There, users can review the messages to determine if they are spam or not. Sometimes unsuspecting messages get caught up in filters, and this gives the intended recipient a chance to retrieve wanted messages. For extremely conservative organizations, the system can automatically delete flagged messages and never deliver them to the inbox out of an abundance of caution.

Conclusion

Everyone should be concerned about the rise of cyberattacks and the potential risks to their businesses. Use an email provider that offers sophisticated email filtering services. LuxSci’s Premium Email Filtering is an available add-on to our Secure Email Hosting and Secure Connector solutions.

5 Ways to Prevent Human Impacts on Your Cybersecurity Program

Tuesday, October 12th, 2021

There are multiple ways that humans impact cybersecurity and can put data at risk. From being tricked by phishing emails to choosing easily guessed passwords, insider fraud and mistakenly classifying the security level of emails and other content, the actions of your employees can make your data vulnerable.

While the impact of human errors can’t be eliminated entirely, there are steps that can be taken to minimize the effects humans can have on your cybersecurity. Five of these steps are detailed below.

prevent human effects on cybersecurity

1. Adopt an “Opt-out” approach to encryption

At LuxSci, our philosophy is to limit risk by taking basic security choices out of employee hands. Instead of relying on employees to encrypt emails with sensitive contents, we automatically encrypt every message by default. This makes it more difficult for an employee to carelessly send out sensitive emails without the proper safeguards.

Conversely, when taking an opt-in approach to cybersecurity, employees are responsible for remembering to encrypt each email before sending. Anytime an employee forgets to take this step, it represents a potential security breach with all the liability that entails. Adopting an opt-out approach to encryption reduces this risk significantly. While many companies use opt-in processes because of their convenience, they introduce a high degree of risk. LuxSci’s SecureLine encryption technology enables a new generation of email encryption that features both flexibility and security.

2. Implement strict email filtering and network firewalls

Are you familiar with the aphorism “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? By taking steps to prevent malicious threats from reaching your systems and networks, your employees will not have to spend their time trying to figure out what is a threat.

Email filtering

Phishing is one of the greatest threats to cybersecurity. Rather than relying strictly on human judgement with regard to which emails to open, using a sender policy system that filters or flags suspicious incoming emails can appreciably improve cybersecurity. Don’t count on your busy employees to know when an email is suspicious. Instead, use email filtering to keep those emails from even entering their inboxes.

Network firewalls

Firewalls help prevent attackers from gaining easy access to your network. They prevent suspicious connections or messages from connecting to the network or reaching their intended destination. By serving as a first line of defense, a firewall plays a major part in shielding your network from cyberattacks. By preventing external threats from accessing your applications, you don’t need to count on your employees to recognize when something isn’t right.

3. Prevent human impacts on cybersecurity by training staff

Almost every modern workplace relies on internet-connected devices to get work done. However, just training staff to use your technology effectively is not enough. With cyberattacks growing in frequency, keeping your staff aware of the latest cybersecurity threats is essential to protect your business. With data breaches, denial-of-service (DoS), and ransomware attacks accounting for tremendous financial losses, failing to prepare your staff for the danger these attacks pose to your IT operations can be costly.

Your employees can prevent security breaches if they are properly trained in the latest cybersecurity best practices. Some complex security breaches can evade even the best automated security measures. If your staff knows what to look for, they can play a crucial role in augmenting your existing security measures.

In addition, hackers often target employees as their first access point for gaining entry to a network. As a result, restricting cybersecurity training to just the IT department can leave your employees vulnerable to social engineering, phishing emails, and other exploits used by hackers to dupe them.

A cybersecurity training program can help reduce risks by familiarizing employees with the tricks used by hackers to gain access to their accounts. As part of the training program, it’s important to test employees on core concepts to ensure the message is retained.

4. Enforce strong password and access control policies

To reduce the risk of security breaches, a robust password protection program is necessary. One of the key elements is enforcing password complexity. Simple passwords are vulnerable to brute force hacking, enabling hackers to easily access employee accounts.

Requiring staff to use unique, complex passwords makes it much harder for hackers to gain access to an account. A complex password can include multiple types of characters (numbers, letters, capitalization, special characters) and minimum character lengths. Learn more about creating secure passwords in our blog archives.

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is another key element of a robust security policy. By requiring more than a single action to access an account, you can drastically cut down on security breaches due to lost or stolen passwords. Given that compromised passwords are a significant cause of security breaches, using MFA is a powerful tool for bolstering network security.

In addition, setting up time-based access controls for your sensitive systems can prevent bad actors from gaining unauthorized access. For example, if you have an employee who works a 9am-5pm shift, you can prevent her from accessing the system from 6pm-8am. That way if a bad actor did get her credentials, they would be unable to login when she was offline. This could prevent someone from taking over your systems overnight.

5. Adopt the Zero Trust security stance

What is Zero Trust Architecture? Essentially, it is a policy for guarding against cyberattacks by assuming that every aspect of a network is subject to attack. This includes potential insider threats from employees or attackers who have infiltrated your network. This contrasts with other security approaches that assume that traffic within a network’s security perimeter can automatically be trusted. Instead, Zero Trust Architecture minimizes the security perimeter as much as possible to reduce the chance of a security breach and evaluates the credentials and actions of users at all levels of access to identify any actors inside the network who may pose a threat.

By providing a more granular level of threat detection and limiting access within the network, a Zero Trust security approach is more rigorous than existing security models focused primarily on perimeter security.

ZTA improves security without imposing unduly burdensome requirements. It gives users access to just the minimum level of data and services needed to fulfill their role. This can help stop insider threats from employees. If a lower-level employee with little access to sensitive data has their credentials compromised, it is less threatening to the organization’s data security. The attacker will not be able to penetrate other parts of the network without additional identity verification.

Limiting human impacts on your cybersecurity to decrease risk

Humans can amplify cybersecurity risks in many ways. Between careless mistakes and intentional sabotage, there are a number of things that employees can do to expose your company to cybersecurity risks. The steps listed above comprise a comprehensive set of measures you can take to minimize negative human impacts on cybersecurity. In conjunction with a robust security solution, these measures can significantly enhance your cybersecurity defenses.

Secure your organization by contacting us to find out how to get onboard with LuxSci.

Why the Healthcare Industry is a Target for Cybercrime

Tuesday, September 21st, 2021

Healthcare data seems mundane- but in the hands of a cybercriminal it can be quite valuable. Medical records contain private information that can be used to blackmail or impersonate others. Even if you aren’t a public figure with a sensitive medical condition, the financial and personal identifiers found in medical records make them a target for cybercrime.

healthcare cybercrime

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