For IT business owners and independent contractors in technology fields, performing IT risk assessment and risk management are often a crucial element of day-to-day operations. Even if you’re not conducting formal risk analysis on a daily basis, chances are you’re doing the little things that strengthen your overall risk management strategy: updating passwords, updating software, logging out of machines when you walk away, and keeping your office locked.
But are you leaving yourself and your clients exposed to data breaches, hackers, or viruses through channels you’ve overlooked? Read on for information about how you can avoid the three IT risk management mistakes that cost too many IT businesses time, energy, money, and reputation.
Does Your IT Risk Management Plan Really Reduce Your Risks?
Most IT professionals understand the core elements of keeping data safe and avoiding major breaches. But ancillary exposures can do just as much damage if and when they lead to a breach. Make sure you’ve got a risk management plan in place for each of the following.
- Exposures from your clients. Whether you provide advice as an IT consultant, offer leadership as a project manager, or design and build site infrastructure, your clients expose you to serious cyber risks every day. Why? Because of something called third-party liability. The cyber risk that tends to be at the top of people’s mind is called first-party: the risk that your databases could be exposed by hackers. But if you set up an operating system for a client or advise them to use a certain cloud provider and that OS or cloud system later permits a breach, you could be held liable for your role in causing it.
- Exposures from human error. Sure, you’re careful about maintaining your passwords and locking your tablet after you’re done, but are your employees? Are your clients? A Verizon data breach study conducted earlier this year found that 74 percent of data breaches are “opportunistic” attacks, meaning that they happen because hackers notice a vulnerability that they decide to exploit. Translation: we can prevent about three-quarters of data breaches by better protecting our data. Keep in mind that the less tech-savvy your clients are, the less likely they are to realize how important it is to protect their data and their equipment.
- Big-picture risk exposures. It’s easy to get bogged down by focusing on the individual risks that threaten your company and forget to take a step back to look at the bigger picture. But often, you can save yourself time and money by making a single big change (like purchasing antivirus software for all your employees who use their own mobile devices for work purposes, rather than addressing individual virus incidents as they arise). Of course, knowing which changes to make requires you to step back from time to time and analyze the larger context of various security events.
How Can IT Professionals Manage Risk Better?
So assuming you’ve conducted some IT risk assessment measures and identified where you’re most vulnerable, how can you protect your business? The good news is that the same basic rules of risk management apply regardless of where your major risks exist:
- Establish and enforce data security protocol. Update passwords regularly, update software as patches emerge, buy antivirus software, and limit access to sensitive data.
- Educate your clients about their role in keeping their data secure and preventing breach incidents. Encourage them to purchase first-party Cyber Liability Insurance to cover the costs of any data breaches that happen.
- Communicate new risks with clients as you become aware of them. As the IT guru, you’re more likely to have a handle on the latest viruses and security patches that might affect your clients. Do them the favor of alerting them when you find out about these, and you’ll make yourself more valuable while minimizing your potential of third-party cyber liability.
- Invest in a third-party Cyber Liability Insurance policy. While a first-party policy will protect you from the risks that threaten your data, only third-party policies can offer coverage when you’re charged with exposing a client’s data.