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Patrick Martin

By: Patrick Martin on March 27, 2024

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Why Building A Culture Of Data Security Is Important For Dealerships

Cybersecurity | Information Security

If you manage or own an auto dealership, you understand the need for data security. In addition to safeguarding your own sensitive information and that of your customers, there are regulatory obligations such as the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC’s) Safeguards Rule to consider as well.

And, while there are tools to help, the best way to protect your data is by building a culture of data security.

In this article, we’ll explore how to build a culture of data security that will not only protect important data but keep you in compliance with the Safeguards Rule. We’ll explain what’s involved and dive deep into four key elements of successful data security cultures.

The truth is that simply putting tools in place does no good without a culture that is actively engaged, monitoring, and implementing information security enhancements regularly. Everyone has a role to play.

So, what’s the best way to establish and maintain a culture that keeps IT compliance and cybersecurity top of mind, while engraining the idea that overall information security is the goal? I get asked this question a lot and I’ve identified several key characteristics that set organizations with strong IT security cultures apart from the rest of the pack.

In this article, I’ll identify and explain four characteristics of organizations that have institutionalized strong information security cultures. You can use these characteristics to implement or strengthen your organization’s culture of data security. 

What Is An Information Security Culture?  

An information security culture is one in which every employee understands the role they play in keeping information safe. An information security culture includes policies, procedures, and training that inform users about compliance and cybersecurity.

Most importantly, it focuses on developing a culture in which everyone acts to protect your company’s data from any unauthorized access (not just electronic access). 

Why Is An Information Security Culture Important? 

Organizations have all kinds of sensitive information ranging from the recipe for their secret sauce to government-regulated design and manufacturing specifications.

No matter whether the information is important to the organization’s product or to international security, information that would be damaging if it were released publicly must be protected. 

An information security culture ensures that every employee understands and embraces their role in protecting sensitive information.

4 Key Elements Of An Information Security Culture 

Many elements combine to create and foster a strong information security culture. Here are four that are key to success:

1. Policies & Procedures For Auto Dealerships

Develop and implement a comprehensive data security policy and procedures that support it. Ensure that you balance the need for compliance and security with user productivity.

Here are some characteristics of successful cybersecurity policies and procedures:

    • Balanced

Effective cybersecurity policies and procedures are powerful enough to block unauthorized network intruders, but permissive enough to let your employees and business partners use the information they need in a streamlined way.

    • Understandable

They should be easy to understand, so that every single employee in the company, no matter their title or function, fully understands what threats are being addressed and how to play their part

    • Evolutionary

The tools and procedures you had in place to protect data last year may no longer be enough to mitigate emerging threats.

Your policies and procedures need to be revisited regularly (every 6-12 months) to ensure that they reflect the latest threats. Review, adjust, and get approval before implementing updates. Maintain copies of past cybersecurity policies and procedures so that you can revise without repeating past mistakes.

In addition, call together your technology team to address new issues as they arise.

    • Automated

We are all human; and we all make mistakes. The more you automate, the less room there is for employees, vendors, suppliers, and distributors to make mistakes.

    • Standardized

When handling company or customer data, all members of your team should adhere to the same rules. Every entrance into your system and infrastructure has the potential to expose your data.

Your policy should include consequences for not following policies and procedures which should be enforced equally across the board.

    • Multidisciplinary

Your policies and procedures must bridge the needs of all stakeholders, giving equal voice to their needs and concerns, and relying on input from people who know how their departments work. Be sure your policies and procedures apply equally well across the organization and don’t inhibit efficiency.

    • Flexible

While the policies and procedures are standardized, exceptions will occur. Offer a standardized exception process that is documented, accountable, and well-organized. 

    • Actionable

Even the most comprehensive cybersecurity policy might not be enough. Vulnerabilities may be discovered, sensitive data might be exposed, and you may have to quarantine certain elements of your network in order to keep your business safe. 

Include decisive, responsive, and reliable solutions to a variety of possible threats and incidents.

2. Training & Education For Dealership Employees

Help foster a security culture through ongoing training and education. This training should be conducted regularly to ensure that all employees know how to recognize and report emerging and existing threats.

Learn why it’s important to provide security awareness training for employees.

Related article: What Is Employee Security Awareness Training? Do I Need It?

 3. Security Audits For Auto Dealerships

Regular vulnerability scans and penetration tests help identify vulnerabilities in your infrastructure, so that you can address them and strengthen your overall security.

Vulnerability Scan

A vulnerability scan (or “vulscan”) is an automated tool used to identify everything that is running on your network(s) and find weaknesses in devices, servers, networks, and applications. This scan is performed at a high level often without login credentials just to see what open information can be accessed. 

Vulnerability scan software is commercially available, or you can hire a professional IT team to perform the scan for your organization.

Penetration Test

Penetration tests are not usually automated and are basically authorized cyber attacks.

They involve an IT professional who pokes around your network to see what vulnerabilities exist and what the consequences would be if those vulnerabilities were exploited by someone with malicious intent from inside or outside of your organization. 

Related article: How To Assess Cyber Risk: IT Vulnerability Scan Vs. Penetration Test

4. Monitoring & Updates For Auto Dealerships

It’s important to proactively monitor your infrastructure for unauthorized access. There are automated tools that can monitor your environment and track unusual activity, giving you the opportunity to act quickly to minimize the impact of unauthorized access.

It’s equally important to install software and system updates as soon as possible.

Related article: Why Do I Need To Patch & Update Business Software & Operating Systems?


What’s The Bottom Line?

As with any other major organization-wide initiative, the success of an information safety culture at your auto dealership is directly tied to buy-in at all levels of the organization. 

When people understand the importance of the issue, the role they play, and the impact their daily actions can have, they are more likely to embrace an information security culture. 

Once you make the case by identifying and quantifying the risks and rewards associated with action and inaction, people will be more likely to support information security initiatives, making it easier to engrain in the overall culture.

And, with the adoption of a security culture, you can mitigate the impact of emerging cybersecurity threats on your dealership.

Whether you have the resources available internally or need to partner with an external technology expert, make sure that you have the policies and procedures in place to comply with the FTC Safeguards Rule and protect your dealership and your customer data.

About Patrick Martin

As vice president, engineering services, Patrick tackles technical challenges on a daily basis. He enjoys working with customers to help them use technology effectively to achieve their strategic business goals and objectives.

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