In recent years, plenty of high-profile data breaches have made the headlines, from the Snowden Leaks to the 2022 Cash App data breach. Many of these breaches were carried out by former employees who had access to sensitive data and decided to misuse their privileges.
As a registered investment advisor (RIA), you have a wealth of client data at your fingertips, and it is your duty to keep this data safe from unauthorized access. It’s therefore essential that you have measures in place to prevent your RIA firm’s data from falling into the wrong hands — and that starts with protecting it from disgruntled employees.
Why do employees steal data?
There are a number of reasons why your employees might steal your firm’s data. For one, they may simply be curious about what information your firm has and decide to look through it without permission. On the other hand, they may be angry or upset about a recent firing or demotion, or they may be planning to leave the firm and share your clients’ data with their new company.
Employees may also steal data in an attempt to blackmail your firm. For instance, they may threaten to release sensitive client information unless you meet their financial demands. They may also try to sell intellectual or proprietary data to third parties, such as competitors or identity thieves, to make a quick buck. However, employees may also be coerced or tricked by outsiders into stealing data, such as if they receive a phishing email that sets them up to reveal login credentials.
Whatever the reason, data theft can have devastating consequences for your firm. Not only could it lead to hefty fines from regulators, but it could also damage your firm’s reputation and result in the loss of clients.
How can you protect your RIA firm’s data from insider threats?
Employees with malicious intent are a major security threat to any organization, but there are measures you can take to protect your firm’s data from them.
The foremost defense against data theft is restricting employee access to sensitive data. If an employee doesn’t need certain data to do their work, don’t give them access to it. You should also carefully monitor employee access to data and flag any unusual activity. For instance, if an employee who normally doesn’t have access to client data repeatedly tries to view it, that could be a sign that they’re up to something. Regularly review access permissions to make sure they’re still appropriate and revoke access for any employees who no longer need it.
In addition, you should encrypt all sensitive data, both at rest and in transit. That way, even if an employee does manage to steal data, it will be unusable without the decryption key. Also, require employees to use strong passwords and enable multifactor authentication whenever possible to further secure their accounts.
Finally, consider using Microsoft Intune to prevent data leakage. Intune is a cloud solution that helps you secure and manage all mobile devices, desktop computers, and virtual endpoints connected to your network, whether these are company-owned or personal devices.
With Intune, you can create app protection policies that control how data can be accessed and used within specific apps. For example, you can prevent employees from copying, printing, or screenshotting data from Excel spreadsheets or accessing data when they’re connected to an unsecured Wi-Fi network. You can also remotely wipe data from a lost or stolen device and block certain apps from being installed on company-owned devices.
When setting up app protection policies, aim to strike a balance between security and usability. If the policies are too restrictive, employees will find ways to work around them or may simply refuse to use the protected apps. However, if the policies are too lax, they won’t be effective at preventing data leakage.
To find the perfect balance, consider enlisting an IT partner that specializes in RIA security, like RIA WorkSpace. Our team of experts can help you assess your firm’s specific security needs and create custom app protection policies that will protect your data without impeding productivity.
By taking proactive measures to prevent data theft, you can safeguard your firm against the potentially devastating consequences of a breach.
For more information on how to protect your RIA firm from disgruntled employees and other security threats, get in touch with RIA WorkSpace today.