If you’re an Independent Financial Adviser, please take some time to review your IT and cybersecurity.
Unfortunately, you are a prime target for cybercriminals. You need to make yourself as unattractive to them as possible, whilst also ensuring that your IT provision is top notch.
As you’ll be aware, the financial industry is heavily regulated. The protection of the data you hold is one area that you need to take extremely seriously. Lose it and you’ll not only face the wrath of the regulators, but your reputation will be damaged, possibly irreparably. Your clients may also vanish and getting back to ‘normal’ may prove impossible. There is so much on the line, it is vital that you do everything within your power to protect the data contained within systems as if it were gold dust.
When you hold data which contains details about employment, income, shares, and pensions, the cybercriminals are keen to gain it. Your clients place immense trust in you when they impart this information to you, and it is not only your legal obligation to protect it, but also your moral duty. Treat each client’s data as if it were your own and you can’t go far wrong.
Make it clear to your clients how seriously you take data protection – they will welcome it. But also, you’ll be an attractive proposition for prospective clients who are now much more switched on about the perils of cybercrime and will value your commitment.
How to protect data
Firstly, there is not one solution or one size that fits all. Cybersecurity is made of layers, all of which need to be in place. And each business is different, so you need to ensure that the measures in place exactly fit your business. You need to consider:
- Data encryption – encrypt sensitive data both at rest and in transit to prevent unauthorised access. Use strong encryption standards for client files, communications, and transactions.
- Regular software updates – keep all systems and software updated with the latest security patches. Hackers often exploit vulnerabilities in outdated software.
- Secure authentication – implement strong password policies and apply multi-factor authentication (MFA) wherever possible for an additional layer of security. This helps protect accounts even if passwords are compromised.
- Firewalls and antivirus software – use firewalls to protect network boundaries and antivirus software to detect and mitigate malware threats.
- Secure WiFi networks – ensure that WiFi networks are secure, encrypted, and hidden. Advise remote workers to avoid using public WiFi for any work-related tasks or on work devices.
- Data backup and recovery – regularly back up data and have a robust recovery plan in place to minimise downtime and data loss in the event of a cyberattack.
Alongside IT measures there needs to be education for any staff. They need to understand what their role is in keeping data secure. So, not only does their IT kit need to have strong security in place, but they also need to fully understand their role in keeping the data safe.
Not only is it useful to let your clients know what measures you are taking to keep their data safe, but to also instruct them on how they can do their bit. Provide them with information on best practices for protecting their own data and make sure they know how to report any suspicious activity.
What do to in an emergency
Regrettably, even the most robust security is not guaranteed to keep out the criminals. Rather like a fire safety plan, you need to have a process in place should the worst happen and your business is infiltrated. You need to know what to do. And your team needs to know what to do. Act quickly to minimise damage and there will be far less mess to clear up in the long run. Your ‘cyber resilience’ plan needs to be in place and understood by all relevant parties.
Don’t provide a way in
Not only are IFAs a target in their own right, but are also the perfect gateway to get to someone else. For example, criminals will know that high net worth individuals will be seeking advice from IFAs so will try to muscle in to find out about them, and gain access to other linked systems.
Keeping kit within warranty adds another layer of protection. Using devices that are up to date allows you to use the latest software which will have the strongest security options. Plus, job satisfaction is always better when using the best hardware and software for the job, and chances are you’ll be able to provide a better service to your clients.
If you are an IFA that takes the protection of your clients’ data seriously, but are not sure that you have everything in place, we are here to help. Get in touch to organise a Technology Business Review and we’ll run through all the ways you can protect yourself, and how we can work with you to do this.