Browsing articles tagged with " Board of Directors"

Cybersecurity and the Cloud Multiplier Effect

Jul 11, 2014   //   by admin   //   Blog  //  No Comments

RFG Perspective: While corporate boards grapple with cybersecurity issues and attempt to shore up their defenses, the inclusion of cloud computing models into the equation are increasing the risk exposure levels. Business and IT executives should work together to aggressively establish processes, procedures, and technology that will minimize the risk exposures to levels deemed acceptable. Additionally, senior executives and Boards of Directors need to play a more active roll in the accountability and governance of cybersecurity by discussing and addressing challenges, issues and status at least quarterly.

An article on the front page of the Wall Street Journal on June 30, 2014 discussed corporate boards racing to shore up cybersecurity. It alluded to a number of corporate boards waking up to cyber threats and worrying that hackers would steal company know-how and intellectual property (IP). In the first half of 2014 1,517 NYSE- or NASDAQ-traded companies listed in their securities filings references to some form of cyber attack or data breach – almost a 20 percent increase from the previous year. In all of 2013 1,288 such filing comments were made whereas in 2012 only 879 companies reported cyber statements. This is good and bad news – good that cybersecurity is getting CEO and Board attention and bad news in that executives are belatedly waking up to an endemic problem.

Fiduciary Responsibility

The Board and CEO have a fiduciary responsibility to shareholders to protect the company’s assets from undue risks. It is not something that can be assigned and then ignored. Yet that is what has happened at many companies over the years. They must be involved in cybersecurity governance and decision-making on an ongoing basis and not shunt it off to Chief Risk Officers (CROs), Chief Security Officers (CSOs or CISOs) and/or IT executives. CEOs and other senior executives should also ensure privacy and security programs are aligned with each business unit’s requirements and that the risk probability and exposures are reasonably known and reduced to an acceptable level. It is important that all parties understand that zero security risks are not possible anymore (nor would the expense be worth it if attainable); what is important is to agree upon what level of risk exposure is acceptable, budget for it, and implement initiatives to make it happen.

At the Board level there should be a risk committee that is responsible for all risk management, including cyber risk. Moreover, best practices suggest Boards should, as a minimum, address the following five areas:

  • regularly reviews and approves top-level policies on privacy and IT security risks
  • regularly reviews and approves roles and responsibilities of lead personnel responsible for privacy and IT security
  • regularly reviews and approves annual budgets for privacy and IT security programs separate from IT budgets
  • regularly reviews and approves cyber insurance coverage
  • regularly receives and acts upon reports from senior management regarding privacy and IT security risk exposures.

These efforts can be done by the full Board or by a risk committee that reports to the Board. Some Boards may have assigned this role to the audit committee but, while it is good that it is addressed, it is not a perfect fit.

Cloud Multiplier Effect

In June the Ponemon Institute LLC published a report on the cloud multiplier effect. The firm surveyed 613 IT and IT security practitioners in the U.S. that are familiar with their companies’ usage of cloud services. The news is not good. Because most respondents believe cloud security is an oxymoron and certain cloud services can result in greater exposures and more costly breaches, the use of cloud services multiplies the breach costs by a factor between 1.38 and 2.25. The top two impacts are from cloud breaches involving high value IP and the backup and storage of sensitive or confidential information, respectively. Most respondents believe corporate IT organizations are not properly vetting cloud platforms for security, are not proactively assessing information to ensure sensitive or confidential information is not in the cloud, and are not vigilant on cloud audits or assessments.

Moreover, disturbingly, almost 75 percent of respondents believe their cloud services providers would not notify them immediately if they had a data breach involving the loss or theft of IP or business confidential information. Almost two-thirds of those surveyed expressed concern that their cloud service providers are not in full compliance with privacy and data protection laws – and this is in the U.S. where the rules are less strict than the EU. Furthermore, respondents feel there is a lack of visibility into the cloud as it relates to applications, data, devices, and usage.

 

Summary

 

Boards, CEOs and senior non-IT management need to become more aware of their cybersecurity exposures and actively participate in minimizing the risks. IT executives, on the other hand, need to present the challenges, status and trends in a more business, less technical manner, including recommendations, so that the other executives can appreciate the issues and authorize the appropriate actions. As the Ponemon study shows, the challenges go beyond the corporate four walls into clouds they have no control over. IT executives need to become involved in the selection and vetting of cloud services providers. Furthermore, business and IT executives must work together and build strong governance practices to minimize cybersecurity risks.

RFG POV: Cybersecurity risk exposures are increasing and collectively executives are falling short in their fiduciary responsibilities to protect company assets. Boards, CEOs and other senior executives must take their accountability seriously and play a more aggressive role in ensuring the risk exposures to corporate assets are known and within acceptable levels. For most organizations this will be a major cultural change and challenge and will require IT executives to proactively step forward to make it happen. IT executives should collaborate with board members, senior executives, and outside compliance services providers to establish a program that will enable executives to establish a governance methodology that monitors and reports on the risks and provides cost/benefit analyses of alternative corrective actions. Moreover, at a minimum, corporate executives must review the governance materials quarterly, and after critical risk events occur, and take appropriate actions.

 

Unnecessary Catastrophic Risk Events

Aug 24, 2012   //   by admin   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Lead Analyst: Cal Braunstein

Knight Capital Group, a financial services firm engaged in market making and trading, lost $440 million when its systems accidentally bought too much stock that it had to unload at a loss and almost caused the collapse of the firm. The trading software had gone live without adequate testing. In other news, Wired reporter Mat Honan found his entire identity wiped out by hackers who took advantage of security flaws at Amazon.com Inc. and Apple Inc.

Focal Points:

  • Knight Capital – which handled 11 percent of all U. S. stock trading so far this year – lost $440 million when its newly upgraded systems accidentally bought too much stock that it had to unload at a loss. The system went live without adequate testing. Unfortunately, Knight Capital is not alone in the financial services sector with such a problem. NASDAQ was ill-prepared for the Facebook Inc. IPO, causing losses far in excess of $100 millions. UBS alone lost more than $350 million when its systems resent buy orders. In March, BATS, an electronic exchange, pulled its IPO because of problems with its own trading systems.
  • According to a blog post by Mat Honan “in the space of one hour, my entire digital life was destroyed. First my Google account was taken over, then deleted. Next my Twitter account was compromised, and used as a platform to broadcast racist and homophobic messages. And worst of all, my AppleID account was broken into, and my hackers used it to remotely erase all of the data on my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook.” His accounts were daisy-chained together and once they got into his Amazon account, it was easy for them to get into his AppleID account and gain control of his Gmail and Twitter accounts. It turns out that the four digits that Amazon considers unimportant enough to display on the Web are precisely the same four digits that Apple considers secure enough to perform identity verification. The hackers used iCloud’s “Find My” tool to remotely wipe his iPhone, iPad and then his MacBook within a span of six minutes. Then they deleted his Google account. Mat lost pictures and data he cannot replace but fortunately the hackers did not attempt to go into his financial accounts and rob him of funds.
  • All one initially needs to execute this hack is the individual’s email address, billing address and the last four digits of a credit card number to get into an iCloud account. Apple will then supply the individual who calls about losing his password a temporary password to get access into the account. In this case the hacker got the billing address by doing a “whois” search on his personal domain. One can also look up the information on Spokeo, WhitePages, and PeopleSmart. To get the credit card information the hacker first needed to get into the target’s Amazon account. For this he only needed the name on the account, email address, and the billing address. Once in, he added a bogus credit card number that conforms to the industry’s self-check algorithm. On a second call to Amazon the hacker claimed to have lost access to the account and used the bogus information in combination with the name and billing address to add a new email address to the account. This allows the hacker to see all the credit cards on file in the account – but just the last four digits, which is all that is needed to hack into to one’s AppleID account. From there on, the hacker could do whatever he wanted. Wired determined that it was extremely easy to obtain the basic information and hack into accounts. It duplicated the exploit twice in a matter of minutes.

RFG POV: The brokerage firm software failures were preventable but executives chose to assume the high risk exposure in pursuit of rapid revenue and profit gains. Use of code that has not been fully tested is not uncommon in the trading community, whereas it is quite rare in the retail banking environment. Thus, the problem is not software or the inability to validate the quality of the code. It is the management culture, governance and processes that are in place that allows software that is not fully tested to be placed into production. IT executives should recognize the impacts of moving non-vetted code to production and should pursue delivering a high quality of service. Even though the probability of failure may be small, if the risk is high (where you are betting the company or your job), it is time to take steps to reduce the exposure to acceptable levels. In the second case it is worth noting that with more than 94 percent of data in digital form commercial, government, and personal data are greatly exposed to hacking attacks by corporate, criminal, individual, or state players. These players are getting more sophisticated over time while businesses trail in their abilities to shore up exposures. Boards of Directors and executives will have to live with the constant risk of exposure but they can take steps to minimize risks to acceptable levels. Moreover, it is far easier to address the risk and security challenges in-house than it is in the cloud, where the cloud provider has control over the governance, procedures and technologies used to manage risks. IT executives are correct to be concerned about security in cloud computing solutions and it is highly likely that the full risk exposure cannot be known prior to adopting a vendor’s solution. Nonetheless, Boards and executives need to vet these systems as best they can, as the risk fiduciary responsibility remains with the user organization and not the vendor.