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2024 Information Security Goals: Your Credit Union's New Year's Resolutions

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By Joshua Ivy, Information Security Analyst, TraceSecurity

March 13, 2024

As we enter 2024, we must prioritize cybersecurity initiatives and integrate them into our business strategies. This guide comprehensively lists ten robust cybersecurity resolutions your organization should consider. These resolutions will aid in strengthening your information security infrastructure while mitigating potential threats and breaches.

1. Annual Policy Reviews

  • Importance of Annual Policy Reviews: The onset of a new year is the perfect time to reassess your organization's information security policies and procedures. These documents are not set in stone; they should evolve as your company grows, implements new technologies, detects new threats, and adapts to new industry regulations. A thorough IT security policy serves as a battle plan guiding your organization. Reviewing these policies at least once annually ensures their effectiveness and alignment with industry best practices.
  • When to Conduct Policy Reviews: While annual reviews are the bare minimum, high-risk industries such as healthcare, public safety, and financial services should consider biannual reviews. Additionally, major changes in business requirements, new global or state regulations, data breaches, management changes, or new technologies should trigger policy reviews.
  • Key Questions for Policy Reviews: During the review process, ask yourself:
    • Is the policy outdated?
    • Are the procedures hard to follow?
    • Have we begun using new technologies or processes not yet written into our procedures?
    • Does the proper implementation of the policy and procedures require more employee training?

2. Comprehensive Incident Response Program

  • The Need for an Incident Response Plan: Cybersecurity incidents are unfortunate in today's digital landscape. However, having a robust cybersecurity incident response plan can significantly reduce the damage caused by such incidents. This plan guides IT and cybersecurity professionals on responding effectively to security incidents such as data breaches, ransomware attacks, or loss of sensitive information.
  • Components of an Incident Response Plan: A solid incident response plan typically includes four phases:
    • Preparation
    • Detection and analysis
    • Containment, eradication, and recovery
    • Post-incident activity
  • Regular Updates to the Incident Response Plan: Like your organization's policies and procedures, your incident response plan should be reviewed and updated at least once a year or when major changes occur within your company.

3. Internal Tracking of IS Program Testing

  • Significance of Internal Tracking: Internal tracking of all information security (IS) program testing, remediations, or accepted risks and controls is crucial in maintaining a robust cybersecurity infrastructure. It provides an audit trail, aids in identifying trends, and helps make informed decisions.
  • Implementation of Internal Tracking: Organizations can leverage various tools and platforms that offer real-time tracking and reporting for effective internal tracking. Regularly reviewing these reports can help identify potential vulnerabilities and rectify them promptly.

4. Patch Management

  • Understanding Patch Management: Patch management is critical to maintaining a secure IT environment. It involves regularly updating firmware, operating systems, and third-party software with patches released by vendors to fix vulnerabilities.
  • Implementing Patch Management: Efficient patch management requires a systematic approach. Organizations should have a defined schedule for patching activities based on the criticality of the systems. This process should involve identifying systems that need updates, prioritizing these updates based on risk assessment, testing patches before deployment, and monitoring systems post-deployment.

5. Security Awareness Training

  • The Role of Training in Cybersecurity: Employees often serve as the first defense against cyber threats. Therefore, implementing metric-based security awareness training is crucial. It empowers employees with the knowledge to identify potential threats and respond appropriately, thereby reducing the risk of breaches.
  • Effective Security Awareness Training: Effective training programs should be engaging, relevant, and regular. They should cover various topics, including phishing scams, password best practices, and the safe use of social media. Further, organizations should measure the effectiveness of these programs and tweak them based on the metrics obtained.

6. Configuration Reviews

  • Importance of Configuration Reviews: Regular configuration reviews of firewalls, VPNs, Microsoft 365 settings, and other security configurations are crucial in maintaining a secure IT environment. They help identify misconfigurations that threat actors could potentially exploit.
  • Conducting Configuration Reviews: Configuration reviews should involve assessing the current configuration settings, comparing them against industry best practices, and making necessary adjustments. Where possible, automate the review process to ensure consistency and accuracy.

7. Regular Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing

  • Why Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing Are Necessary: Vulnerability assessments and penetration testing are essential cybersecurity practices. They help identify vulnerabilities in your IT infrastructure that attackers could exploit and validate the effectiveness of your security controls. Vulnerability assessments provide an automated approach, while penetration testing manually confirms the existence of vulnerabilities and uncovers additional vulnerabilities that automated tests might miss.
  • Conducting Vulnerability Assessments and Penetration Testing: Organizations should conduct testing regularly, especially after any significant changes to the IT environment. It should involve a systematic approach to identifying, classifying, prioritizing, and addressing vulnerabilities.

8. Implementing Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

  • The Role of MFA: Multi-factor authentication (MFA) adds an extra layer of security to the user authentication process, making it more difficult for unauthorized individuals to access sensitive data. It requires users to provide at least two verification factors to gain access.
  • Implementing MFA: Implementing MFA involves selecting a suitable MFA solution, configuring it based on organizational needs, and training users on its correct usage. It should be implemented for all systems that contain sensitive data.

9. Regular Compliance Audits

  • Significance of Compliance Audits: Regular compliance audits help ensure that an organization's policies, procedures, and controls comply with relevant laws, regulations, and standards. They can identify areas of non-compliance and provide recommendations for improvement.
  • Conducting Compliance Audits: Compliance audits should be conducted by an independent party to ensure objectivity. They should involve reviewing the organization's policies and procedures, interviewing staff, and testing controls.

10. Data Encryption

  • Understanding Data Encryption: Data encryption transforms readable data into an unreadable format to prevent unauthorized access. It is crucial in protecting sensitive data at rest (stored data) and in transit (data being transferred).
  • Implementing Data Encryption: Implementing data encryption involves selecting suitable encryption algorithms and tools, encrypting sensitive data, and managing encryption keys securely. It is important to ensure that encryption is applied to all sensitive data, regardless of where it is stored or how it is transferred.

In conclusion, adopting these cybersecurity resolutions can significantly bolster your organization's cybersecurity posture. It's about being proactive, regularly reviewing systems and procedures, and always staying one step ahead of potential threats. As we move further into 2024, let's resolve to make cybersecurity a top priority.

Connect with TraceSecurity to learn more.

About TraceSecurity

TraceSecurity has provided over 30,000 examiner-approved reports, helping credit unions of all sizes maintain compliance year after year. A CUNA Strategic Services provider since 2006, TraceSecurity helps credit unions with a range of cybersecurity services, including risk assessments, penetration testing and IT audits. With a combination of software and services, TraceSecurity can help credit unions manage their information security program and supplement it with third-party validation.