At their essence, financial reports serve to summarize the business health of a company. They contain a wealth of proprietary information that could compromise a business's success if they fall into the wrong hands.
High-level financial statements such as balance sheets, income statements, and even cash flow reports must be secured and disclosed under controlled circumstances. Lower-level reports such as expense reports and budget projections must likewise be guarded at all times, since they reflect an organization's daily activity and operational efficiency.
These days, cybersecurity is as integral to a company's success as financial efficiency is. Keeping this in mind, here are four security processes that will ensure top-notch financial data security at all times.
1. Install Proper Data Governance
Financial teams source data from a wide range of sources. Most of these sources are internal, but teams might also rely on external sources. For instance, data feeds from suppliers that reflect dynamic prices could be input for company pricing models.
Diverse data sources often lead to data silos, since each department works with its own datasets, separating them from the rest of the organization, and eliminating data silos is essential for financial reporting success. However, companies must ensure that proper data and security governance policies are followed when removing silos and merging data.
For instance, data structure must be standardized, and external data sources must be staged and encrypted before being allowed to proceed internally.
Once silos are eliminated, every data source must connect to a central platform, and those integration points often give birth to security weaknesses. Inspecting them to ensure configuration errors and other security issues don't exist is an essential cybersecurity task.
2. Automate Security Sanity Tests
Sanity test automation already exists within cybersecurity. Thanks to rising technological sophistication, the scope of these tests is increasing. Security teams must automate as many checks as possible. Automation allows you to instead focus on value-added tasks and work on prioritizing threat alerts.
Errors often creep into systems during an overnight refresh or update process. While a dedicated IT team should examine each app's errors, security teams must also remain in the loop to ensure configuration changes don't introduce new security risks.
At the very least, network endpoints and data encryption standards must be routinely checked. Automating threat monitoring and implementing AI-powered continuous security validation are also great ways of ensuring new attack vectors don't compromise financial systems.
3. Train Financial Personnel
Human beings are often labeled as the weakest link in the security chain. The truth is that poor cybersecurity training creates weak links. A lot of security training seeks to raise awareness among employees. However, organizations must instead focus on modifying behavior under stressful circumstances.
For instance, an employee responding to several emails at once is more likely to fall victim to a phishing attack. Simulating these scenarios and training employees to respond appropriately is the right way forward. Much like how repeated fire drills prepare people for the real thing, repeatedly conducting cybersecurity breach simulations will train both financial teams and security teams to respond appropriately.
Culture is a huge part of installing these processes. Change always comes from the top, and securing executive buy-in is essential. Cybersecurity must become a part of the company's culture, instead of an appendage. Training financial teams to understand the sensitivity of the data they handle is critical.
Defining data handling and communication processes is also critical. Often, errors occur due to a lack of policy definition. For instance, if an employee wishes to transmit their department's financial data to a central FP&A team, will they send it via email or a highly-encrypted channel? Defining how these everyday processes must be handled will go a long way towards preventing security compromises.
4. Embed Security in App Development
Financial teams these days use several apps to complete their tasks. These apps are typically released in a CI/CD environment that pushes dev teams to produce as much as possible. In such situations, security can become an afterthought. A developer faced with tight deadlines is more likely to introduce security errors into an app.
Making the matter worse is the fact that most developers lack security training. The solution to this problem is to embed a security member within Scrum teams. This person can create pre-validated development templates for developer use. Any enhancements will go through a security check automatically as a result.
Providing developers with automated tools to verify their code's security level is also a great way of installing a security-first culture within dev teams. Organizations must also encourage collaboration between dev and security teams since both worlds lack interaction. Knowledge of each other's issues will foster better code and more secure financial reporting apps.
Securing the Company's Vital Data
Financial data cuts to the heart of a company's health. Any compromise in security will leave the business vulnerable to competitors, ultimately causing a death spiral. These tips will help organizations protect financial data and ensure security becomes a part of everyday culture.