Taking a fresh look at your data security will deliver real business benefits as well as keep you on the right side of the FCA
It’s easy for financial firms to see IT security compliance as a thorn in the side. Regulations are becoming stricter every day, and fines for data security breaches are growing in parallel, to the extent that a major incident could put a smaller company out of business.
While it’s true that firms which base their FCA compliance policies on bad IT systems will find themselves on the back foot whenever a new regulation comes into force, there is every reason for accountancy practices to use compliance as a lever for a more streamlined and efficient IT strategy.
Seizing the opportunity of an IT security compliance audit to take a fresh, holistic view of your IT landscape could put you on the road to FCA compliance – addressing all the security and data management requirements that the FCA can throw at you, while reaping significant business benefits.
There are four cornerstones to IT security compliance: data security, data backup, the benefits of managed services and maintaining an audit trail of data access – all of which can be addressed with the help of the right IT partner.
You need to protect client data against hackers, thieves and self-inflicted security breaches. That means creating and enforcing a comprehensive data security policy that also takes into account internal threats and an increasingly mobile workforce. That policy should be supported by enterprise-grade security systems that use a combination of anti-malware tools and data encryption. And it should be enforced at every turn.
As Jon Wilcox says in a useful overview of how accountancy firms can limit the risk to confidential data, the financial implications of a data security breach are far-reaching in this sector.
According to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport 2017 Cyber Security Breaches Survey, incidents are continuing to rise – each one with the potential to compromise data compliance and with GDPR on the horizon these incidents could spell the end for any business that falls victim. Last year, 46% of small businesses suffered an attack from an unauthorised outsider – an almost 100% increase on 2015.
These included denial-of-service and network attacks which impacted on business continuity, and the attempted theft of personal data and companies’ intellectual property. Over 75% of businesses suffered staff-related security breaches and 17% were fully aware that their staff had broken data protection regulations during the previous year.
Further complications on the security front are created by increasing employee mobility and the proliferation of devices such as smartphones and tablets, which are now commonly used to access such systems and services. These require the implementation of a mobile strategy that will provide flexibility to the user while ensuring data protection in the event of theft or loss.
Choosing the right partner to help you introduce compliance-standard security systems and practices into your IT model could be the way forward.
Data Backup and Replication
Whether it’s the result of a mundane system failure or a physical disruption such as a flood or a fire, data can be lost or become corrupted. Data backup is probably the most important aspect of any IT system – and the most easily ignored because it only becomes a factor when disruption occurs.
There’s a compelling incentive to get backup and data recovery right. A recent study suggested that up to 48% of businesses don’t conduct daily backups of their data and 66% don’t regularly test their disaster recovery plans to check they actually work!
Scary statistics suggest that only 6% of companies who suffer major data loss survive longer than 24 months. It’s also important to remember that data loss could result in significant compliance-related fines that, along with the cost of lost data, might be enough to put the firm out of business.
The right IT services provider can help you implement best practice data backup and replication processes so that in the event of a system failure or disaster, your client information and confidential records will be recoverable in keeping with FCA regulations.
The business benefits of cloud computing – hosted applications and services that can be accessed from any location – are being heavily promoted by the IT industry. For regulated businesses, there are still significant compliance issues surrounding the security of services that are delivered across the Internet.
But secure, managed services are a great way to ensure IT compliance if they are implemented in the right way, by a partner that understands the compliance issues affecting your business.
Auditing and Reporting
The fourth cornerstone of IT compliance is your ability to report comprehensively and accurately to the FCA in the event of a security breach. The right IT services provider will help you to audit your systems to ensure that you are keeping proper records of data usage. This means you will be able to identify problems as they arise – and adapt your policies to guard against recurrence – as well as being able to provide full evidence if an incident occurs.
As an IFAonline article on using technology to keep on top of compliance explains: “The key to compliance is adopting the right technology to ensure data is all in one place. Having systems that can check and store data will ensure compliance teams can adapt to the demands of the FCA.”
We Get It
IT Farm’s decade long experience delivering cloud solutions to the UK financial sector ensures we have the knowledge and experience to move SMEs from their legacy in-house IT set-up to a cloud platform that performs to the highest possible standard and in a secure and compliant way.
We understand your industry, we understand your software and we understand how important your business is to you.