Professional Services and Customer Data Risk

Posted: June 11, 2020 / Author: Dror Liwer

The professional services sector is a particularly tempting target for cybercriminals. Accounting, legal, financial, IT, and insurance firms possess large databases of confidential and sensitive information that can fetch top dollar on the black market. Sensitive data may include:

  • Client banking information
  • Healthcare records
  • Trade secrets
  • Intellectual property
  • Highly classified documents

This information is highly valuable to criminals who want to sell data on the dark web or even back to the firm it was stolen from for a ransom. Corporate espionage is another cause of data breaches. Many of these attacks are particularly subtle, with many companies detecting data breaches only years later.

Cyberattacks Pose the Greatest Threat to Professional Services Firms  

Last year, the professional services sector saw 7,463 reported security incidents – the highest of any industry.

These companies that are targeted by phishing attempts and malware have a lot to lose. The average cost of a data breach is more than $7 million, but that doesn’t factor in the reputational damage. Client confidentiality is a cornerstone of professional service sector work -- so much so that firms that are deemed “cyber-vulnerable” can suffer consequences of a class action suit without a data breach actually occurring.

Compared to large organizations, hackers view smaller professional services firms as “soft targets” without the strong perimeter defense or internal resources committed.

Sensitive Data Handling Vulnerabilities

Firms must take a closer look at all potential areas of vulnerability:

  • Crimeware – a type of malware that steals identities through social engineering or technical stealth.
  • Hacking – a system data breach, usually through the firm’s web apps or browser plugins.
  • Malware – viruses and software that install on the firm’s computers, sometimes in ways that are undetectable by antivirus software.
  • Ransomware – encrypting a firm’s data to make it inaccessible until hackers have been paid in Bitcoin.
  • Physical loss – stolen laptops or devices used to commit crimes or sold to criminal enterprises.
  • Social engineering – when experienced cybercriminals convince employees to inadvertently share information that can be stolen and sold or used to commit cybercrime.

Is Your Professional Services Firm Secure?

The firmest security controls cover all bases:

  • Preventative controls – patch and configuration management; vulnerability audits; authentication; access control; data encryption; antivirus blocking; sensitive data handling policy.
  • Detection controls – managed security service providers; intrusion detection systems; network alerts.
  • Corrective controls – incident response; forensics; virus quarantine; system isolation; disaster recovery; business continuity plans; administrative response; legal actions.

No company is too big or too small to suffer an attack. Even with all the right security measures in place, data breaches can still occur. Responding promptly to mitigate the damage makes all the difference.

Tips on Strengthening Sensitive Data Handling Policy

Consider these ways of bolstering your defenses:

  • Perform an in-depth risk assessment to identify potential vulnerabilities.
  • Develop a security program, including an incident response plan and mock response drills.
  • Conduct security awareness training and re-evaluate employee clearance.
  • Classify, identify, and segregate different types of data.
  • Test all backups, archives, and antivirus solutions to ensure they can’t be exploited.
  • Work with an advisory group like Coronet with the knowledge and experience to help you stay current.

While it may not be possible to prevent every type of attack, you can prevent costly breaches. Learn more by contacting Coronet to learn how we keep cloud data safe.

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