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The cyber-resilient CFO: protecting your finances from cybercrime

25 April 2024 eftsure
Ryan Mer, CEO at eftsure Africa, a Know Your Payee™ (KYP) platform provider

Ryan Mer, CEO at eftsure Africa, a Know Your Payee™ (KYP) platform provider

Data is the new gold in today’s hyperconnected market, and the threat landscape for Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) is evolving faster than ever. Cybercriminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their deviance, employing a dizzying array of tactics to infiltrate and exploit vulnerabilities within financial systems. To navigate this minefield of financial fraud and protect their organisations, CFOs must shed outdated misconceptions and embrace the role of cyber-resilient leaders, says Ryan Mer, CEO of eftsure, a Know Your Payee™ (KYP) and B2B payment fraud prevention platform provider. It is no longer acceptable to simply be a bystander or delegate responsibility to others and rely on other people in the organisation for controls and risk mitigation in their key areas.

Elevating the role of the CFO
Cybersecurity is a business-wide risk that requires more than isolated activities to be addressed. There needs to be strong governance, controls, compliance and responsibility across various key functions of the business, with the finance function probably being the most key.

The CFO must play a leading role in cyber security, as it is potentially disastrous for the finance team to be ignorant of cyber risk. Attackers can target many areas of an organisation, but the dangers are ultimately measured in financial terms: CFOs cannot ignore cyber security simply because it is a complex issue outside their area of expertise. CFO’s may not be responsible for the security of the organisation itself, but it is through their wider network of relationships with customers, suppliers and other stakeholders that they have a key role to play.

The evolving cybercrime landscape
Cyber threats are constantly evolving, and the days of simple phishing scams are long gone. From relentless ransomware to stealthy supply chain attacks and data-hungry zero-day exploits, modern CFOs face a daunting, continuous onslaught of financial cyber threats. These digital dangers can cripple operations, extort hefty ransoms, and steal confidential data, making robust cybersecurity strategies and vigilant awareness an absolute necessity for safeguarding the financial well-being of every business.

The uncomfortable reality of financial cybercrime
Unfortunately, many harmful misconceptions about cybercrime persist, hindering effective mitigation strategies. Some believe their organisation is "too small" to be a target, while others underestimate the sophistication of modern attacks. The harsh reality is that no organisation is immune, irrespective of size or industry. In fact, according to Accenture’s Cybercrime Study, nearly 43% of cyber-attacks are on small businesses, and only 14% of these businesses are prepared to handle the attack. Another common misconception surrounds the "IT's problem" mindset. Cybercrime is not solely an IT concern; it is a business risk requiring coordinated action across all departments.

Building cyber resilience
So, how can CFOs transform themselves into cyber-resilient leaders? CFOs can adopt a proactive defence approach by investing in cybersecurity infrastructure, including tools like multi-factor authentication, data encryption, and advanced monitoring systems. Regular risk assessments help identify and prioritise vulnerabilities, with prompt patching of these weaknesses to avoid becoming targets for attackers.

Building a culture of security awareness through employee training and having a comprehensive incident response plan are indispensable components of resilience. In terms of financial controls and monitoring, CFOs should implement strong segregation of duties, separating authorisation, execution, and recording of financial transactions. Monitoring financial transactions closely using anomaly detection tools, regular reconciliation of accounts, careful review of vendor contracts for cybersecurity practices, and maintaining cyber insurance are essential measures to mitigate potential financial losses.

Collaboration and leadership play a vital role, with CFOs leading by example and making cybersecurity a top organisational priority. Effective communication about cyber threats and security importance keeps employees and stakeholders informed. Collaboration with IT and other departments, breaking down silos, and fostering a culture of shared responsibility for cybersecurity are fundamental steps, while staying informed about emerging threats and continuously adapting the cybersecurity strategy based on the latest trends and vulnerabilities is imperative for ongoing defence.

Resources for the cyber-resilient CFO
Numerous resources are available to guide CFOs on their journey toward cyber resilience. The World Economic Forum's "Cyber Readiness Playbook" and the National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework provide practical guidance for risk assessment and strategy development. Professional organisations like the Association for Financial Professionals (AFP) offer dedicated cybersecurity resources and training programs.

The tools for financial security
CFOs need to be proactive about the internal controls, oversight and data management processes they have in place to ensure that these risks and strategies are adequately addressed.

However, to assist with the overwhelming challenges faced by CFOs in the digital age, fraud detection and prevention solutions can proactively identify suspicious activity and disrupt fraudulent transactions before they can inflict damage. By integrating seamlessly with existing financial systems, such solutions empower CFOs to gain real-time insights into their financial data, enabling them to make informed decisions and safeguard their organisation's hard-earned resources.

Don’t just automate; integrate
Because people are often the weakest link in the security chain, most companies today have automated processes in place to minimise the risks associated with manual processes. The next step is to not only automate, but to integrate. A Software as a Service (SaaS) provider like eftsure can help enhance processes and limit payment fraud risks by providing an integrated onboarding, verified master data management and payment screening solution that cross-references the payments an organisation is about to release with a database of verified bank account details. This can be integrated into anything from ERP and accounting systems to sales and customer relationship management systems. The platform alerts you to any potentially compromised payment details, allowing you to deal with the problem before the flow of funds has occurred.

The bottom line: cyber defence is a shared responsibility
Cybercrime might be a complex and ever-evolving threat, but it's not an insurmountable one. By shedding outdated misconceptions, sharing risk across leadership, embracing a proactive approach, and utilising available technological tools, CFOs can become cyber-resilient leaders, navigating the minefield of financial fraud with confidence and protecting their organisation's bottom line. Remember, in the digital age, vigilance is not just a necessity, it's a competitive advantage.

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