Information security has become one of the most widely discussed topics among boardroom members, public sector officials and consumer advocates in the past few years, as identity theft has ravaged the U.S. economy. Although progress has been made in this regard, firms are still struggling to really strike the right chords with their security programs, and the biggest problem appears to be a lack of comprehension, leading to vulnerabilities that can be capitalized upon by threats.

Hackers and malicious insiders are increasingly skilled when it comes to identifying the areas of an IT security program that would be easiest to break into, rather than attacking exceptionally well-guarded systems. In a way, this is similar to virtually every type of crime out there, in the sense that threats will always go after the low-hanging fruit first, and this can be seen in the immense damages that have wreaked havoc on small businesses and organizations with lackluster protections in place.

Unfortunately, strong efforts in one area of the security equation can be completely wasted when only one piece of the puzzle is missed, and this is a fact that far too many leaders have come to see for themselves of late. Strategies must be broadly reaching and exhaustive, while the solutions used to fortify systems that contain mission-critical and sensitive apps need to be updated and maintained properly to truly protect against major data breach events.

One of the best ways to go about creating an exhaustive and comprehensive IT security plan is to go piece by piece through the three areas of management that count the most - people, processes and technology. When organizations adequately cover their bases within these components, the chances of vulnerabilities and risks going unmitigated will be inherently lower, and the time to act on these matters is now.

First and foremost, one of the prevailing problems in IT security has been employee negligence, and this can be somewhat easily handled by simply instituting more wide-reaching training and awareness programs. Regardless of which solutions are in place to protect data, or how progressive company policies might be, those efforts will be moot when the staff members tasked with obliging requirements and using technologies are not prepared to do so in a secure fashion.

Employee training can work to reduce the threat of negligent errors that lead to data breaches and vulnerabilities, while awareness programs and testing will add a level of assurance to managers and IT departments that staff members are all on the same page when it comes to security. Businesses should consider incentivizing certain aspects of training and testing, rewarding employees who go above and beyond the call of duty to boost engagement within these programs.

Policies will tend to make or break an IT security strategy, and this is true for several reasons, including the fact that overly restrictive process requirements can lead to rogue activities, while those that are too loose will simply not protect the business from threats. The trick is to identify a balance between employee freedom and corporate control within the policies that dictate general IT service delivery and management frameworks so as to support staff members while still avoiding the prospect of losing control.

Leaders should always consider bringing managers and even lower-level employees into meetings that involve discussions about security policies, as representation will tend to yield more accurate and wide-reaching insights. Additionally, constantly evaluating and refining policies related to IT security can work to ensure that the programs are relevant to the risks the organization faces.

With the people and processes components of the equation taken care of, decision-makers will need to ensure that they are protecting their IT assets with the required fortifications and tools. For example, when organizations do not have a large IT department staffed with seasoned professionals who know how to handle the full range of technologies involved, they should consider outsourcing certain aspects through the acquisition of secure cloud services.

Going a step further, email encryption and network monitoring tools will be vital to the consistent protection of information and mission-critical systems, and these investments will tend to be more than worth their weight in gold. The cost of a data breach is going up quickly, and the frequency with which firms are being struck by these events has skyrocketed in the past few years. Leveraging more advanced security technology can help to shore up defenses and patch what would otherwise be significant vulnerabilities in the IT chain.

By working with a reliable and experienced security service provider that can not only guide decision-making, but help to select the right fortifications are well, organizations can begin to reduce the risk of experiencing a devastating data breach.