Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) happen all the time in the business world, symbolizing the growth and expansion of a company as it heads in a new, more prosperous direction.
Company mergers and acquisitions are often publicly announced in transactions that make headlines across the media, which can be a great thing for the marketing team and for investors—but not so great for the IT solutions department as it inherits a new and potentially insecure company network.
Why is a Business More Vulnerable to Cyberattack During a Merger and Acquisition?
The additional publicity surrounding an M&A can also have the dangerous side effect of making a business prone to phishing attempts, vulnerability scans, and other opportunistic cyberattacks. When the growing business undertakes an M&A and brings a new company network on board, new (and potentially unsecure) IT systems can compromise even the most secure corporate network— and wreak havoc on the business’s data security and public integrity in the process.
Follow These Cybersecurity Best Practices During a Merger and Acquisition
In order to control the integration and implement the security of merging networks, independent audits and tests must be run to ensure that the environment and network being merged with remains secure. Companies should prioritize the long-term alignment of procedures and technology and focus on developing an augmented company policy that is supported by the most up-to-date cybersecurity defenses.
Keep these cybersecurity best practices in mind for a successful merger:
- Assess and Align Existing IT Security Policies
When merging companies, there will likely be disparities between the IT security policies of the disparate organizations. During the integration process, existing IT policies should be strategically reviewed and assessed.
Focus on the strengths of each organization’s individual cybersecurity policies, and use those strengths to create an even more powerful IT security approach for the new company as a whole.
- Conduct a Gap Analysis
Once the companies are aligned, a gap analysis should be performed to assess both organizations’ strengths and weaknesses against the new cybersecurity guidelines. Implement a roadmap to delineate the process and procedures that each company should follow to close any IT security gaps.
Conducting independent audits and tests to focus on any security gaps is especially important during the acquisition/merger phase since the companies are especially vulnerable to attack during the initial stages of transition.
- Assess the New Network’s Infrastructure
Obtain network architecture diagrams to show business partner and Internet connections for both organizations. Ensure that both companies are able to monitor all internal networks and DMZs using intrusion detection systems.
As the merger continues, install additional detection tools to keep tabs on any new potential vulnerabilities. Focus on web application attacks and Windows issues common to each environment, and have the in-house IT team examine any IDS alerts for security compromise. If you don’t have an in-house IT team, a third-party managed security services provider should be consulted during the process.
- Determine any Wireless LAN Vulnerabilities
If either of the organizations relies heavily on Wi-Fi and the other does not, there are likely significant differences in vulnerability profiles. Check any Wi-Fi systems’ security settings and ensure that encryption and high-level authentication processes (like WPA2) are being used.
Assess the BYOD and BYON (bring your own device and network) policies for each company as it pertains to employee network access. Implement or strengthen security policies where necessary to prevent employee BYOD/BYON usage from increasing company Wi-Fi network vulnerabilities during the transition.
- Educate Employees
Employee IT security awareness is vital to the success of any merger and acquisition. Since employees are the weakest link in a company’s security framework, it is especially important to keep them informed during major changes. During an M&A, implement a comprehensive awareness program to bring all employees up-to-speed in the newly integrated security policies. Consider launching a brief, focused initiative on the dangers of email phishing and ransomware campaigns, and install awareness information centers in employee gathering places. Be sure employees are up-to-date on general IT security best practices, like password health and vetting email attachments and sources.
During an M&A, the parent company might have rock-solid IT security—but once the merger takes place, the company could be exposed to new and dangerous vulnerabilities across its previously-secure network. Third party audits and tests of the network environment can help a business stay informed during the M&A process, know exactly what they are getting into, and assess any remediation necessary to bring the new network up to appropriate security standards. To help keep your company safe and your network secure during the merger and acquisition process, contact Intrinium for an M&A IT security assessment.