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Digital Risk Management: 5 Steps To Take To Protect Your Data

10 minute read

Before you turn on your computer or phone each morning, you, and your business are already facing digital risks. No matter the size of your company’s digital footprint, these risks can cause tangible harm to your people and assets, result in theft of business revenue, and cause reputational damage. These require digital risk management to mitigate.

These risks are typically a result of threats in the ever-evolving “gray space” beyond the traditional corporate perimeter. This space is made up of the neutral areas across the internet where your business interacts with customers but which are not owned by your enterprise, the customer, or the threat actors who function in the same space. Because traditional security controls focus on internal and edge defenses, it can be difficult to know how to protect yourself. 

In this post, we will explain what you need to know about digital risk management and will cover five steps you can take to protect your digital assets and data from a variety of risks. 

What is Digital Risk?

Before we continue, let’s dive a little deeper into what we mean by “digital risk.” 

Digital risk is defined as any and all unexpected consequences resulting from the use of digital technologies, which can lead to the disruption of business operations or objectives. 

From software exploits and embedded malware to social engineering techniques like impersonation and phishing, digital threat actors are continuously improvising new tactics and techniques for deploying cyber attacks against enterprise targets. These are often financially motivated, but in some cases, corporate espionage and state-sponsored digital warfare fuel cyber attacks. 

Digital risks are a result of the evolution, or lack thereof, of digital business and the cybercriminals who aim to exploit them. Digital risks can vary based on the type of threat. For example, the digital risks associated with brand attacks include tarnished reputation and lost revenue for an organization or business. Whereas the digital risks associated with executive attacks could put individuals in physical danger. 

You might remember the attack on Sony back in 2014. Hackers were able to leak information about movies, executives, and even actors. The attack created very real damage for Sony and its employees.

In other words, when we say “digital risks” we are referring to any direct impacts or outcomes of the actions of threat actors in the digital world. 

These risks are only growing – in fact as digital transformation has accelerated post-pandemic, these digital risks have become more pervasive in a variety of industries and organizations. In the ZeroFox ecosystem, we’ve observed a 519% year-over-year increase in security incidents related to online scams. We’ve also seen a 295% increase in HR scams, 609% increase in money flipping scams, and 100% increase in impersonating profiles. All of these incidents relate directly to greater digital risk.   

Examples of Digital Risk

The following examples break down the most common digital risks and potential threats to enterprises and people. 

  • Brand risks: Brand risks are often the first that come to mind when thinking about digital risk protection and digital risk management. Brand risks include the potential for damage to a company’s reputation due to a breach or fraudulent misrepresentation (like a phishing website or impersonated social media page). If not addressed, brand risks can quickly become a cause of revenue loss. 
  • Physical risks: We mentioned that digital threats can translate into real-world physical dangers, but it’s important to note that they require immense situational awareness. For example, consider the act of doxxing (sharing someone’s personal information online). Recently, threat actors doxxed Supreme Court Justices and shared their home addresses, children’s names, and other sensitive data. This put them at risk of physical harm even though the threat happened online. 
  • Cyber risks: Digital crime, cyber activism or terrorism, corporate espionage, and state-sponsored cyber warfare are all considered sources of cyber risk. Cyber security threats can take many forms, including software exploits, malware and ransomware attacks, hacking, account takeovers, cyber compliance risks, and data leakage.

How Can You Prevent Digital Risk?

They say the best defense is a good offense. In the age of the digital Wild Wild West, it’s not enough to accept being target practice for threat actors anymore. Start with these five steps to reduce your risk factors, protect your sensitive company data, and manage your digital risk online. 

Step 1: Use an Encryption Tool for Communication

Data breaches that happen outside of your perimeter often include unencrypted data or information that was sent over unsecured networks or via phishing attacks. You can protect your data by using an encryption service. For example, instead of sending confidential information via text message to employees who are remote or on the road, use a tool like Signal. This will also make it easier to verify whether a message is legitimate or was sent as part of a phishing attempt. 

Step 2: Set up a Password Manager 

As they say, often the simplest solution is the most important. Password managers are a key component of data security, especially for your organizations’ passwords. For example, password managers like Okta or Last Pass help prevent password sharing over unsecured channels (like text or email) to minimize instances of password resets on phishing sites. Paired with strict password criteria and frequent password updates, this is a simple, yet effective, way to secure your data online. 

Step 3: Assess Your Attack Surface and Vulnerabilities

It’s important to know what is your biggest risk and where threat actors are likely to target your business. Start with a simple digital risk assessment to learn more about your digital footprint and the assets comprising it. It’s important to remember that data breaches rarely happen in silos. More often, threat actors target entire industries or third parties who service major industries, especially when financially motivated. To understand the greatest risks to your particular business, analyze where others in your same industry have faced the greatest obstacles or threats. 

Step 4: Deploy Proactive Monitoring for Data Leaks and Sales Chatter

Let’s say your organization’s data was stolen, but not leaked or breached. What can you do about it? Using a combination of human and artificial intelligence, you can proactively monitor the surface, deep, and dark web to identify chatter about the potential sale of your data. This critical insight gives you a leg up on digital risks so you can take steps to mitigate them. 

Step 5: Utilize Digital Risk Management or Digital Risk Protection (DRP) Software

A digital risk management or DRP software and strategy can make it easier to comb through digital threats and discern which present the greatest risks. When paired with human analysts who can triage alerts, you can save time finding data breaches and finding vulnerabilities that need to be addressed before threat actors find them first. 

What is Digital Risk Management?

Digital Risk Management and Digital Risk Protection (DRP) work to protect, monitor, and remediate the full breadth of enterprise or organization risks, ranging from digital cyber attacks to fraud, geopolitical and supply chain risks, brand abuse, and physical threats to employees or executives. By monitoring social media and the surface, deep, and dark web, IT security and fraud prevention teams can detect evidence of active attacks, successful data breaches, social media account takeovers, and planned campaigns by cybercriminals, hacktivists, or state-sponsored hackers. They can also find indications of harmful actions by disgruntled (or merely careless) employees and customers.

A digital risk platform will pull information from a variety of sources, including the surface, deep, and dark web and help you better understand your digital risks. Then, using the information gained your security team can take action – be it action to take down offending content, change user passwords and information, or even change an executives travel plans. 

This is useful for nearly every type of digital threat or risk that comes from beyond your corporate perimeter. For example, when used for brand protection, digital risk management can clearly identify spoofed or fraudulent accounts that are targeting your customers. 

How Does a Digital Risk Management Solution Work?

An effective digital risk management solution works by taking a multi-faceted approach to external cybersecurity. This approach should help prevent, detect, analyze, and disrupt threats and threat actors. 

In general, a risk management solution works to orchestrate and execute several elements, from risk assessment to threat disruption and remediation. An effective DRP program enables an organization to respond quickly to digital threats by taking down fraudulent websites, ads, and social media accounts, notifying review sites and online forums about false and misleading postings, and alerting online marketplaces and app stores to counterfeit merchandise and fake mobile apps. It should also provide IT and security professionals with current threat intelligence so they can prevent data breaches by deactivating compromised user accounts, revoking stolen credentials, and strengthening security controls.

However, not all digital risk management or DRP solutions or strategies offer the same level of protection or intelligence. 

Five Features of an Effective Digital Risk Management Platform

A risk management platform is not confined to the security team, and as such requires structure and collaboration. The following essential components work together to create an effective digital risk management platform.

1. Quality Risk Assessment

Risk assessment is the foundation of the rest of the process. An effective risk management platform will be able to deploy a combination of human SOC analysts, automation, and AI to qualify risks and the threats behind them for credibility. 

It’s worth noting that, while the basis of risk assessment is the process of documenting and categorizing current risks, it should also include an element of identifying future potential risks. 

2. Risk Prioritization

If everything is an emergency, nothing is an emergency. Prioritizing risks is crucial in the task of preventing and minimizing them.Although you may find AI and automation useful for risk prioritization, it is through human SOC analysts that you can fully understand what is the most pertinent to address quickly. 

3. Live Reporting and Attack Surface Discovery

Yesterday’s data is already too late. Live reporting is essential in creating a proactive approach to digital risk management for your entire organization.

Live reporting should go beyond simple reports of data leaks or breaches. It should include real-time review of chatter from the Underground Economy, in-depth analysis of current threats, and relevant risk details at a glance. 

Live reporting should also encompass the discovery of external assets that may be at risk, which you hadn’t considered before. For example, when considering sites to monitor, you may not consider a Reddit forum since your company doesn’t actively use the site, however, it should be monitored. 

4. Integration Across All Platforms

Threats and their subsequent risks do not exist in a vacuum. Your business may face threats from the same, or similar, threat actors across various platforms simultaneously. For example, if your business uses Zoom for meetings, it’s likely that Zoom is a target for multiple attacks that can impact your business and customers. If your company uses a sales management platform, that platform may be at risk of attacks that are outside of your perimeter, but still relevant to your business and customers. 

Hunting down the risks on each platform can be time consuming, so it’s important to have a digital risk management strategy and solution that can integrate all relevant platforms and software in one place.

5. Intuitive for All Users

Although your digital risk management system will be primarily in the purview of the security team, others in the organization may need access as well. Due in part to rapid digital transformation, your team will expect an intuitive experience that combines a user friendly interface with a comprehensive toolset. 

Even more important, the takedown and remediation process should be simple so that your team can more quickly and effectively mitigate risks. For example, if your brand has been mentioned in a data breach, your digital risk management system should automatically trigger a password reset. 

Digital Risk Management the ZeroFox Way

Managing and mitigating digital risks is easy with the ZeroFox platform. ZeroFox provides a range of external cybersecurity protections, including brand, executive, and domain protection, threat intelligence, digital risk protection, and more. 

The ZeroFox platform helps enterprises of all sizes protect their hard-earned brands online and protect both their, and their customers’, data. To learn more about the ZeroFox platform, download our guide to brand protection. 

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