Digital Footprint Risk: The New Frontier in Organizational Security

Corporate SecurityInformation Security

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Digital footprints can be a double-edged sword for an organization. On one end, the online presence of an organization’s employees and executives can enhance brand visibility, credibility, and security. On the flip side, the digital footprints of an organization’s individuals can introduce significant risks and negatively affect various aspects of the business. Despite many organizations being aware of this, managing digital footprint risks remains a complex endeavor.

This article explores the key challenges organizations encounter when dealing with digital footprint risks, the initial steps to address these challenges, and the potential consequences if digital footprint hygiene is neglected.

Digital Footprint Risk Management Challenges

1. Employee Privacy vs Organizational Accountability

As individuals navigate social media profiles, online activities, and work-related logins, the lines between employee privacy and organizational control have blurred. Factors such as remote work and bring your own device (BYOD) have further exasperated this issue. 

Individuals have privacy rights, but they also bear the responsibility not to engage in actions that could harm the organization. And, if their actions jeopardize the organization, they must shoulder the responsibility to rectify it. Simultaneously, it’s incumbent upon the organization to find a middle ground that respects employee privacy and accepts the costs of doing business. We cannot transform industries into authoritarian entities. Instead, a collaborative approach that allows flexibility and cooperation is vital.

2. Skills/Resources, Effort & Costs

Implementing and maintaining robust digital risk management practices can be a costly and resource-intensive endeavor. It requires acquiring and maintaining specialized tools, employee training, and skilled professionals that can be challenging to find with today’s security talent gap. These costs can pose significant barriers, especially for small and medium-sized organizations.

3. Unclear Responsibility within the Organization

Identifying clear lines of responsibility for managing digital footprint risk within organizations can be a formidable challenge. In some cases, it falls under the marketing department, while in others, it is the purview of security or IT. Occasionally, responsibilities are distributed among multiple departments, and sometimes, no one assumes ownership. This ambiguity can lead to a lack of coordination, haphazard responses to emerging threats, and unaddressed vulnerabilities. Moreover, unclear roles can hinder an organization’s ability to comply with regulatory requirements and industry standards, potentially resulting in legal consequences and reputational damage.

The First Step: An Informed Digital Risk Appetite

To tackle these challenges, organizations must establish an informed organizational digital risk appetite, which includes:

  • Building an Organizational Digital Risk Exposure Inventory

This inventory should encompass all aspects of the organization’s digital footprint, including technology, data storage, assets, access controls, devices, and hybrid work practices. Understanding what an organization owns and the importance of each component is essential for justifying investments  and prioritizing efforts to protect this inventory. 

  • Establishing and Agreeing on Acceptable Levels of Risk

Each organization is unique, and as such, they often need to employ risk management strategies that prioritize mitigating the most significant risks they can afford to address. Achieving this goal may require allocating resources and efforts to areas where they can have the greatest impact, all the while acknowledging and managing a certain level of residual risk. This nuanced approach empowers organizations to strike a balance between strengthening their digital security and maintaining a practical and realistic stance in their risk management endeavors.

  • Deciding, Assigning, Informing, and Consulting Organizational Responsibility for Digital Risk

Clearly defining roles and responsibilities within the organization for digital risk management is essential to ensure no ambiguity in addressing digital threats.

The most effective way to achieve this clarity is by taking a top-down approach, where leadership, including the C-suite, champions digital risk management and underscores its significance. Getting buy-in from the C-suite not only provides the necessary authority and resources but also sets a precedent for the entire organization, emphasizing the commitment to maintaining a secure digital footprint from the highest levels of leadership. We discuss this topic further in our article “Who Needs to Buy In to an Organization’s Security Program?“.

The Risk of Doing Nothing

Organizations that choose not to take action and accept all digital footprint risks should be aware of the potential consequences:

Barriers to Growth

Neglecting digital risk management can limit an organization’s growth potential. Security breaches, data leaks, and other digital mishaps can undermine an organization’s reputation and erode customer trust, leading to missed opportunities.

Financial Consequences

Cyberattacks and data breaches can result in substantial financial losses, including costs related to recovery, legal liabilities, and potential fines for non-compliance with data protection regulations.

Eroded Trust with Customers

Trust is a cornerstone of business success. When customer data is compromised, or digital services are disrupted due to inadequate risk management, customer trust can be severely damaged.

Compliance, Insurance, and Client Terms and Conditions

Many industries have compliance and regulatory requirements for digital risk management. Ignoring these can result in legal consequences and difficulties in securing insurance coverage. Additionally, clients may require stringent digital security standards in their terms and conditions, making it essential for organizations to meet these expectations.

Digital Footprint Hygiene for Organizational Growth

In summary, managing digital footprint risk is a multifaceted challenge that organizations must address to safeguard operations, build trust with customers and partners, and foster business growth.

Media Sonar’s Digital Risk Assessments are a cost-effective option for organizations looking to manage their digital footprint risk. This service couples the capabilities of our Digital Risk Detection platform with our in-house analysts to provide you with a report of identified risks and remediation actions.  This enables organizations of all sizes to understand their exposures without the need for specialized personnel or expensive security technology.

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Media Sonar Digital Risk Assessments provide organizations with an analyst-generated summary of identified risks and exposures.

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