Information security officers (ISOs) at financial institutions typically have myriad responsibilities on their plates, and each of those responsibilities comes with one or more forms of documentation to verify the actions taken. While these duties relate to the main categories of network security and regulatory compliance, there are a host of functions that fall under the ISO’s oversight role.
Fortunately, many ISO responsibilities can be automated in some areas to facilitate the management of the institution’s information security program. Here are five of them:
1. Business Continuity Management (BCM)
ISOs are responsible for overseeing and coordinating BCM, providing detailed guidance on how to recover from a business interruption, and ensuring that the appropriate people, processes, and technology components that make up the network of interdependencies are also restored. Automation can make it easier for the ISO to identify the interdependencies, complete the annual updates, and conduct the training exercises and testing required. Automation can also enable alerts for tasks due by process owners, and generate reminders for annual plan board approval, and report the test results to the board. While the tests for BCP cannot be automated, the documentation and reporting of the tests can—something that can significantly streamline the ISO’s oversight responsibilities and make it much easier to locate these documents at audit and examination time.
2. Updates to the Information Security Program and Information Security Risk Assessment
Automation can provide alerts to help ISOs keep abreast of updates from regulators. Then the ISO can easily pull reports on the revised areas to present them for board approval. Essentially, it’s plan maintenance that can be automated—although some interpretation is needed to support the process. Automation can prevent an institution’s information security program from becoming out-of-date (which can happen easily when an ISO is relying on manual processes for management) as failing to make an important update can have significant, negative consequences. For instance, if management misses a major BCP update, or an annual test, or board reporting, auditors may construe this as a general weakness in management, and scrutinize other areas more closely, such as lending practices or financial reporting. Automation can help institutions avoid inadvertent missteps and resulting hassles within their information security program.
In addition, many recent examination findings relate to inconsistencies between the institution’s policies (what they say they do) and their procedures (how they say they will do them). Automation, when combined with integration between applications, can greatly reduce this probability by easily propagating policy and procedural changes throughout all elements of your information security program. For example, sometimes financial institutions will update their BCM plan but might be lax with other policies—something that can result in a disconnect between different policies. In this case, one policy may refer to a process that is no longer being used; or a policy may contain conflicting references for a process that has been updated. These and other kinds of inconsistencies are virtually impossible to catch without automation and integration.
3. Tracking Audit Exam Findings
Unresolved, or “repeat” findings are usually treated very harshly by regulators. Making sure that all audit and exam issues are resolved in a timely manner is crucial. Automation can rate the severity, assign them to a responsible party, assign a due date for resolution, and sending “ticklers” and reminders as the dates come due. At the end of the process, the ISO can quickly generate reports to provide to the institution’s board, examiners, and other stakeholders. Alerts and on-demand reporting can enhance accountability for addressing each of the findings to improve internal controls and other areas.
4. Managing Third-party Relationships
Financial institutions are required to manage the risks of their third-party vendors and the responsibility to assure this is done falls squarely on the shoulders of the ISO. Institutions can use automation in every aspect of their vendor relationship management, including alerting and tracking of periodic updates to the risk assessments, annual updates to the control reviews, contracts, and contract renewals. With automation, the ISO can instantly identify required tasks and produce the necessary documentation related to its vendor management activities.
Cybersecurity is an important sub-component of information security, and automation can significantly enhance the ISO’s multiple oversight efforts in this area. An automated system can remind ISOs to verify that crucial assessments are completed, including the annual Cybersecurity Assessment Tool (CAT) and the Ransomware Self-Assessment Tool (R-SAT). Alerts can be scheduled to prompt ISOs to conduct annual incident response tests, a gap analysis, and cybersecurity training for employees and the board. And on-demand reporting can keep all stakeholders informed on the progress of your cybersecurity efforts.
One final thought about automation; when the application is combined with a provider familiar with, and dedicated to, the regulatory environment of the financial institution, you do not have to worry about a non-compliant policy or procedure. All necessary regulatory and best practice updates are built-in to the automation.
As a national provider of fully compliant IT and security services, Safe Systems offers a variety of innovative solutions that can help financial institutions automate some of the important responsibilities of their ISO.