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5 Cybersecurity Steps Project Managers Should Know

Project management relies heavily on data. Are your project managers up-to-date on cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity attacks increased by over 50% in 2021, according to several research surveys, with CNET reporting a 68% increase. And a risk barometer conducted by global consulting firm Allianz found that cybersecurity is one of the top three risks for business in 2022, along with business interruption and natural disasters.

All of this is important news for project managers, who are responsible for multiple data sets, project plans to key performance indicators (KPIs) to confidential communication and reports. Because this data is nearly always in a digital format and delivered by digital methods, data security is a top priority for project managers.

And now more and more project managers are tasked with cybersecurity measures or even leading a company-wide cybersecurity implementation project. Either way, project managers can’t leave cybersecurity entirely to the company’s IT department. And neither can they ignore it.

An organization can either incorporate security guidance into its general project management processes or react to security failures,” the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) noted in 2005 and in 2013. “It is increasingly difficult to respond to new threats by simply adding new security controls.

Since that warning, the rise in cyber threats and breaches has increased as quickly as technology advances. This is one of the reasons federal government contracts now require vendors meet the standards in FedRAMP, a federal government program delivering best practice security protocols for cloud-based services.

For project managers, making sure their project is secure from cyber threats means having a clear understanding of cybersecurity threats and how to avoid a breach. And while your organization may have a dedicated IT lead or team, all employees need to be alert to phishing attempts and bear some responsibility for keeping their data secure.

However, as a project manager, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Instead, include an IT team member in the planning process, since they know the specifications of the technology framework in place and the general security measures in place company wide. Consulting with a financial expert from your company is also important in determining return on investment (ROI) for security measures implemented.

Boost Midwest promotes best practices in all levels of project management, and cybersecurity is no exception.

5 Critical Steps for Cybersecurity

Assess Possible Risks.

For each stage of the project lifecycle, determine where data is delivered to internal and external stakeholders. Each data delivery represents a potential security threat, so assess how each breach can be stopped before it starts.

A solid cybersecurity plan should be address the following security risks:

  • Insider threat: A current or former employee who still holds passwords or other ways to retrieve company data.

  • Widespread outsider threat: viruses that are disseminated across multiple networks through illegal hacking wherein particular phishing can gain entry for malware.

  • Targeted outsider threat: hackers install a ransomware virus targeted at your organization which it will remove only after payment.

  • Project design and implementation decisions: these may create new security threats that need to be monitored and addressed.

Perform an ROI Analysis

Calculate the financial effects of a security breach. Include each type of potential breach, including ransomware, phishing, viruses and so on. What potentially could each cost your organization?

  • Determine how your team’s data may get exposed. File transfers, servers, website data, cloud-based data storage, email, internet connections, CRM databases, email lists and any other channel that exchanges sensitive and valuable data should be included.

  • Quantify critical security costs. Outline the basic security measures that should be implemented and how much each one will cost.

  • Evaluate the final ROI. This represents the minimum cost of the minimal cybersecurity measures your project requires.

Integrate Security at Every Stage

It helps to break down security needs for each step of a project’s life cycle — project scope, implementation, resources, monitoring and final requirements:

  • General Security: Address registration and authentication, attack prevention, access management, and fire safety.

  • Infrastructure: Protect company devices and media files with a focus on preventing potential infrastructure threats through systems hardening — the tools, techniques and best practices that will reduce your organization’s vulnerability to cyber threats.

  • Communication: Confirm the security of all email communication and remote work communication including video conferencing, instant messengers and voice calls.

  • Wireless protocols: Ensure that all wireless file transfers communication used in the development process complies with best security practices for your project.

  • Cryptography: Confirm that all project data and communication materials are encrypted.

  • Operational: Implement the security guidelines and required policies that your entire team must follow.

Compartmentalize Data

This starts with the assumption that your security, at some point, will be breached. For project managers, making sure that each team member password-protects all their data is the first, critical step.

Passwords should be strong and frequently updated, and use two-step verification and permissions. Additionally, servers may be configured to store project data in different places, so one breach won’t jeopardize your entire project.

Train Your Team

Employee data security training has long been a cornerstone because it works. This is not a technical change as much as a mental one — team members should understand the security risks and the advantages of digital security, even if it adds one or two steps to operation processes.

Project managers should consider:

  • Creating a clear plan that outlines each change-step for team members that will bring digital security to their tasks.

  • Using available technology like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to confirm team members are trained in best practices and complete the training.

Are your project managers up-to-date with all the different ways their data can be breached?

Are they up-to-date with all the risks associated with cyber threats?

Boost Midwest offers operational assessments that can include cybersecurity issues and best practices in data protection.

Contact our experts for a free telephone consultation today.

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