A Brief Guide to Digital Executive Security

By Haseeb Awan

Gone are the days when executive security was only confined to physical protection. Today, digital executive security is the need of the hour. Executives' account takeover can result in significant losses for companies. Senior executives, board members, and employees with access privileges are all extremely vulnerable to attack. The attackers may employ novel methods to gain their accounts access that are lucrative and have a financial motive behind them. 

This guide covers the following topics:

  1. What is digital executive security?
  2. Why is digital executive security important?
  3. Alarming digital executive security stats
  4. Digital executive security threat landscape
  5. Executive mobile security
  6. Importance of mobile security for executives
  7. Best practices to reduce the risks and stay secure in the digital realm
  8. Mobile security tips for executives
  9. Summary

What is Digital Executive Security?

Digital executive security means protecting executives from digital threats and cyber attacks and being ready to minimize and respond to them. It involves identifying potential risks, drafting cyber policies to minimize and combat them, training executives and other staff members about the security risks and measures, utilizing the best security tools and software, and taking steps to enhance security in the workplace.

It isn't always a matter of seeking online executive protection. It's only a matter of deciding when and how to start and get the safest option possible. Executive cybersecurity protects celebrities, athletes, crypto traders, executives, and other high-net-worth individuals from physical assaults and dangers.

Why is Digital Executive Security Important?

Companies should implement digital executive security to mitigate risks emerging in the digital realm as threats to an executive's security and safety escalate.

Executive security is now a multi-million dollar expense in some company budgets as threats against corporate executives have become frequent. 

While enterprise security teams can protect corporate logins, executives' accounts are not under corporate control. If an executive's password is compromised due to a data breach, their unprotected accounts may provide entry points for a determined attacker to gain access to company resources.

The online world is becoming increasingly personal. Because of the ease with which personal data can be collected via online capabilities such as "cookies," companies are now much stronger at targeting executives' needs and customizing to best meet their desires.

However, this targeting has a negative aspect: malicious hackers focus on the executives and gain access to corporate systems and information. Not only do executives enjoy VIP protocol, but they also typically have greater access to sensitive information. Unfortunately, they often have less stringent security restrictions than other employees and frequently travel – relying on public Wi-Fi and mobile – which are prone to an "entourage" of influential people who provide access.

Executives may reuse vulnerable passwords across remote logins that your deployed security team cannot monitor, and any account associated with it may become an asset for an intruder. 

Therefore, understanding the risks, implementing a solid digital executive security policy, and training the executives with current cybersecurity issues and trends is necessary. Organizations can keep track of corporate credentials to lower the risk of any breach exposures to keep attackers out of enterprise accounts.

Alarming Digital Executive Security Stats

  1. A 2021 study by the Center for Protective Intelligence found that 33% of CEOs had received physical threats in the previous year, in addition to "backlash tied to extremism, racial justice, and political issues."
  2. Executives in the C-suite were 12 times more vulnerable to cyber-attacks.
  3. 71% of C-suite cyber attacks were influenced by monetary benefits.
  4. C-suite executives are identified as the top cyber-security risk by 40% of companies.
  5. 99% of executives have their private data, such as phone numbers, emails, family members' names, birthdays, and much more, available on around 40 or more data broker websites. 
  6. 70% of executive profiles on data broker websites had photos and personal details from social media websites, especially LinkedIn and Facebook.
  7. 75% of CEOs could be liable for data breaches by 2024 if the incidents directly resulted from a lack of focus on cybersecurity.
  8. 40% of online data brokers had the IP address of an executive's home network
  9. 69% of security and compliance executives have seen a dramatic, year-over-year increase in physical threats against their companies.
  10. 95% of executive profiles included private and intimate data about their families, neighbors, and relatives.
  11. On average, online data brokers possessed more than three personal email addresses for every executive record.

Digital Executive Security Threat Landscape

As cyber threats keep rising, cybercriminals set their sights on the C-suite. To protect those executives and the enterprise, organizations must treat their executives as assets, accounting for executives' unique cybersecurity threats – both at home and work – and actively attempting to address them.

The cyber exposure of executives must be treated as a critical security issue for the enterprise. A pivotal security issue would be addressed, and it would be on the firm's radar at all times. You need to do that regarding executive or VIP cyber risk.

One of the most dreaded attacks involving unsecured [public] Wi-Fi hotspots is the man-in-the-middle [MITM] attack, in which data is intercepted by a scammer over an unsecured connection without the mobile user's knowledge. A man-in-the-middle [MITM] attack on an executive target is a hacker's ideal scenario. While their victim is unaware, they can access the most sensitive personal data (especially those linked with company data).

Other common cyber attacks are social engineering attacks such as phishing, smishing, IP spoofing, and malware attacks such as spyware, adware, and ransomware.

Executive Mobile Security

Today, cyber security is just as much (if not more) important as physical security. A well-planned attack on your digital accounts, and you are doomed. Therefore, it is imperative to have online executive security to protect you from cyber threats. 

Mobile security is a big part of cyber security. Your phone carries crucial data (such as emails, messages, passwords, photos, and files) and access to critical online accounts (including bank accounts, corporate files, social media, and more). It makes mobile security for executives a must.

The techniques established to prevent sensitive data from being transferred by computers, phones, wearable devices, tablets, and other devices are known as mobile security. Mobile security aims to prevent unauthorized users from gaining access to the corporate network. It is just one part of a larger security strategy.

Read more about mobile security.

Importance of Mobile Security for Executives

Mobile security aims the same things as desktop security in theory, but the execution and prevention steps that IT must adopt are distinctly diverse.

Organizations must secure all gadgets that access corporate data and implement safeguards to guarantee that their information does not end up in the wrong hands. This purpose applies to all security practices, including network, Computer, laptop, and application security, but mobile security presents particular issues for businesses.

For instance, mobile phone theft and damage are significantly more of a security problem than other endpoints. Smartphones can also function without using standard Wi-Fi or Ethernet networks and in any area with a good Wi-Fi signal.

Mobile-specific technologies, solutions, and regulations should be used by businesses to allow employees to be effective on their smartphones while also maintaining device and data security.

Best Practices to Reduce The Risks in The Digital Realm

A high-profile data breach is reported almost every day. Consequently, enterprises and their executives are becoming increasingly conscious of their risks. Even if enterprises can recognize the most severe security threats, most still struggle to strike a balance between security and productivity. They must realize, even so, that burying their heads in the sand is not a practical solution.

Implementing robust security protocols before possible threats have crossed the digital line is the easiest way to minimize risk. The following are some of the steps that can be taken:

Cybersecurity Awareness Training

Cybersecurity awareness training and education are essential. It must be tailored to the varying roles within an organization, especially for those at the executive level. Executives must be educated on the scope and nature of the cyber threats they face and their critical role in formulating their cybersecurity.

Recognizing Cyber Risks 

Once executives are trained with the current cybersecurity attack vectors, trends, and tools, they know how to recognize cyber risks. Identifying the cyber threats extends far beyond the firm's front door. Data governance, training on identifying social engineering attacks and phishing, guidance on limiting exposure, and keeping yourself aware of emerging fraud schemes can help VIPs reduce their cyber risk. Resilience commences with executives becoming aware of the situation and receiving guidelines for managing their strategic profile (i.e. cyber risk).

Implementing A Robust Cybersecurity Policy 

Identifying the risks and training is not good enough if you don't have a robust cybersecurity policy. The CISO of the company should work with its cybersecurity workforce to develop the best cybersecurity practices and implement them as a policy in the organization. Educating everyone in the organization, especially executives, about the cyber policy and following it is the only way to secure confidential data online.

Cybersecurity Practice 

Practising the best cybersecurity etiquette is a behavioral issue. Adjusting how people access and protect their information can be challenging, mainly if it requires additional steps. Employees, especially top management, must put more effort and time into implementing cyber security best practices. The practices include building their virtual private networks to encrypt communications threads, using password managers, and monitoring should be a part of their daily routine. 

Mobile Security Tips for Executives

Password Protection

Password protecting your screen lock, apps, and critical accounts is the first step towards mobile security. The stronger the password, the better. Use biometric authentication or face recognition if you can otherwise use a variety of combinations (uppercase and lowercase letters, digits, and symbols) that are hard to guess. Also, do not use the same password for every app and account; ensure updating your passwords frequently, and use password managers to save your passwords.

Also, read how to create strong passwords.

Multi-Factor Authentication

The next tip is to use MFA (multi-factor authentication) instead of the basic 2FA (two-factor authentication) for your critical accounts such as bank accounts, corporate secrets, and more. Do not just use your phone number as your 2FA since they are inclined to get SIM swapped and may become the passage towards losing your critical data and funds. Use various techniques such as authentication apps like Authy, Google Authenticator, and Microsoft Authenticator

Install Antivirus and Anti-Malware Apps

Even though all of the strategies listed above help minimize risk, they do not totally eliminate the possibility of a data breach. A competent mobile security app that searches smartphones for malware regularly will automatically boost security. Download verified antivirus and anti-malware apps on your phone to remove any malicious file, app, or code and preserve your data.

Beware of Phishing

Educating yourself and training your staff members on phishing attempts and techniques to avoid phishing goes a long way. It helps you stay vigilant and not fall prey to phishing attempts. Avoid clicking, opening, and responding to spammy links, websites, and emails to ensure the safety of not your personal data but also your corporate data.

Update Apps Regularly

Exploiting outdated code, whether in the operating system or particular apps, is among the simplest ways for cybercriminals to obtain access. 

Installing suggested patches regularly is a simple method to help safeguard devices from malware.

Take Backups

It is good to practice security tips, but it is better to take precautions. Backing up your critical data is one of those necessary precautions that will save you from disasters in a time of calamities like a security breach, lost or stolen phone, and corrupt devices.

Encrypt Data

Always encrypt essential data on your phone or cloud to avoid more significant loss. In this case, even if hackers access your device or data, they will not be able to exploit it, and the data will be useless.

Remote Wipe

Set up a remote wipe option on your phone so that if someone steals your phone and you lose or damage it, you can wipe it remotely and secure yourself from data exploits in the hands of hackers.

Factory Reset

If everything else fails, restoring a phone to factory settings is the last option. This clears the device of all data and any malware or viruses that may have been installed. Ensure your data is backed up before factory resetting your phone; otherwise, you may lose all your data.

Conclusion

Cybercriminals are becoming more advanced over time, employing increasingly diverse and advanced attack vectors. The security sector evolves in tandem with the rest of the globe. Executives must evolve with the ever-changing threats they face. With cyberattacks undoubtedly one of the most severe challenges they face today, it's necessary to approach the problem directly and build a strong base for digital safety.

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