Unsecured messaging platforms put businesses at risk for huge financial burdens

by Ana Lopez

President and General Manager, netfer.

Banks and financial institutions have long been naive about their workplace communication practices. These sub-optimal choices have not gone unnoticed by government factions, and some market leaders are now facing multibillion dollar fines from the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). In September, the SEC imposed $1.8 billion in fines on some of Wall Street’s largest banks for their “widespread and longstanding failure to maintain and preserve work-related electronic communications,” according to a 451 Investigation report.

Banks such as Barclay’s, Bank of America, Citigroup Global Markets, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase and more have fallen victim to data breaches and cyber-attacks related to their poor communication standards, sharing thousands of private and personal customer and company data. This is just one incident of a problem that affects nearly every industry. Therefore, I believe enterprises will continue to be exposed to significant cybersecurity risks and regulatory crackdowns unless organizations recognize the importance of secure mobile communications platforms. They help enable a digital organization without compromising data, privacy and compliance with all legal requirements.

Mobile communications platforms have failed to protect systems against the evolving complexity of cyberattacks, and many fail to meet new regulatory requirements. For example, WhatsApp is a consumer app intended for messaging friends and family, not work-related conversations; however, it is often used as such. Enterprises also often use Microsoft Teams and Slack platforms. Apps like these are not always compliant, end-to-end encrypted or designed to prioritize security for enterprises. This is especially important to know when companies so often collaborate with external partners and share files or sensitive information through these means.

Confidential information that is stored or shared on company networks must be provided with the greatest possible security measures. Secure IT infrastructure, adaptive protocols and safeguards with the highest level of protection are needed to thwart attacks and protect sensitive data. If not, companies risk ending up like the banks and OakBend Medical Center, which is currently facing a lawsuit after a ransomware attack resulted in the disclosure of personal health information (PHI) of over a million people. In the past 12 months there were one an estimated 714 successful data breaches in healthcare. Healthcare, banking and legal institutions are among the most risky industries, although these attacks can happen to anyone.

Fines don’t just come from the SEC to companies either. As mentioned earlier, common workplace communication practices on these platforms do not meet compliance standards. A HIPAA violation in 2023 could cost more than $50,000and GDPR fines can reach up to 4% of a company’s annual turnover. In fact, Google, British Airways, Marriott and H&M have all been heavily fined for GDPR violations with regard to personal data. Therefore, it is typically much cheaper to deploy a secure, compliant messaging platform than to risk having to pay these fines.

Tips for selecting the right messaging platform

Finding a partner for secure digital communications is like buying insurance or hiring a babysitter: you want to make sure you’ve found the right person to protect your most valuable assets. With that in mind, here are some tips to keep in mind as you search for the right secure messaging platform partner for your organization.

• Safety over convenience

Enabling a secure and compliant messaging platform for an enterprise starts with finding a platform that is secure first and useful second. An ideal digital communications ecosystem for an organization is fully encrypted, has a zero trust policy and is under the control of the CIOs or IT staff. It should also have a clear map of access levels and who within the organization belongs to what approval level. To ensure an organization remains free from fines and data breaches, I strongly recommend conducting regular network updates and educating the entire organization on cybersecurity risks and compliance standards they face.

• First class protection

Secure digital communication partners come in all shapes and sizes to meet the needs and demands of any industry. When you’re looking for a partner, look first for a partner that can provide top-notch security and protection specific to the industry you’re in.

• Communication methods

Next, consider your means of communication. Does your business need a combination of voice, video or text communications, or all three? Look for the service provider that best meets those needs.

• Ease of collaboration

Ask yourself if your team is collaborating externally with external players. Do those players need access to shared documents and files? If your company is in an industry with compliance clauses that need to be kept up to date, or if your company is responsible for the management and gatekeeping of personal information, ask the potential secure communication partner how they can best help you protect against these risks. The right partner for you can answer these questions and develop a plan that perfectly fits the needs of your business.

Every organization, company and industry faces threats from hackers, cyber attacks or data breaches. The keys to defense against them are knowledge and proactive protection.


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