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How Geopolitical Events Should Shape Data Security Posture

Business may not be interested in international disputes, but international disputes are deeply interested in disrupting business. Russia’s attack on Ukraine, ongoing since February 24, changed the world of data security almost overnight, quickly turning the already well-established likelihood of a Russian cyberaggression against the private sector into an imminent and visible threat and highlighting the need for companies to reassess their security posture.

In response to the escalating threat, the White House, in coordination with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), recently released a detailed report cybersecurity fact sheet which outlined several steps companies should take to increase security and protect against attacks, such as backing up and encrypting critical data, requiring multi-factor authentication on their systems, and deploying other security methods modern. Business leaders must assess the rapidly changing cybersecurity landscape and its impact on their business and consider the recommendations of the US government.

For companies to boost their security profile, CISOs should do the following:

  • Determine the risk of their business by understanding the type of data they have and whether it is regulated and protected appropriately
  • Consider the international footprint/reach of their company’s operations and the extent to which they may be caught in the crossfire or deliberately targeted in a geopolitical struggle
  • Implement security measures outlined by CISA and other industry guidelines, which include backing up data

Taking these steps will help ensure that you are in the best position to deal with shifting geopolitical currents.

Understand your data

To accurately assess your exposure to hostile geopolitical actors, you need to understand what kind of data your business has and how well it is currently protected. Is it regulated by the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or the US Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), or by financial services authorities? Is it personally identifiable information (PII)? Would it pose a threat to the business or others if exploited by an adversary? These are all important questions to ask as you classify and assess your data and ultimately determine its vulnerability to sabotage.

Geopolitical risk assessment

In the face of international conflict, company management must also assess the scope of the company’s international operations to calculate exposure to geopolitical threat actors. To do this, consider the following questions:

  • Does your company operate data centers in countries or regions facing threats of attack or occupation?
  • Do you do business with governments/countries that are caught in the crossfire or are primary targets of antagonistic actors?
  • Are you sensitive to insider threats?

The answers to the questions above will help determine your level of risk from international cyberattacks.

Take steps to strengthen your cybersecurity posture

Although organizations must take many steps to strengthen security against international threat actors, data safeguards play a particularly crucial role. Having backups thwarts cybercrime by allowing you to restore your systems to a recent time before it gets infected. CISA itself suggests that businesses make data backup a top priority in order to minimize the impacts of a cyberattack.

To ensure that backup capabilities are efficient and transparent, companies should implement a backup strategy with the help of a solution provider that enables regular, automated backups that are stored off-platform for data in the event of a data outage or incident at a cloud provider. Additionally, an effective backup solution provider must also have the ability to back up metadata, files, and attachments and the ability to centrally manage backups across geographies. By incorporating all of these elements into your backup strategy, you’ll maximize your protection against data loss and provide much-needed peace of mind in these times of geopolitical tension.

Final Thoughts

In today’s threat environment, the lines between corporations and nation states are blurring. Warring entities see corporations as an extension of the governments and countries they seek to disrupt, and they will not hesitate to target your business if they believe it furthers their cause. To avoid becoming a victim of the ever-escalating global cyber war, CISOs must take steps to classify existing data and ultimately fortify it against potential attacks. By taking the steps outlined above to understand your data, assess your geopolitical risk, and implement a data backup strategy, in addition to implementing the measures advised by the White House and CISA, businesses will be well positioned to strengthen defenses against hostile geopolitical threats and protect against harmful attacks.