Paycheck Protection Program Security: What You Need To Know

Paycheck Protection Program Security: What You Need To Know

Business owners and employees going through tough times need help. That’s why programs like the Paycheck Protection Program exist. There’s just one problem. Whenever new programs are developed, some unethical people try to cheat the program. Specifically, some hackers may try to defeat your Paycheck Protection Program security. To keep your company safe, it is essential to protect the data and processes associated involved with the program. 

First, Refresh Your IT Security Goals To Recognize The Paycheck Protection Program

You probably have an existing IT security strategy in place. However, that program needs to be enhanced and developed to respond to new threats and company changes. If the organization is depending on the paycheck protection program, your IT security needs to cover it. To guide your IT security program accordingly, you need to know the fundamentals of the program.

The Paycheck Protection Program is a special federal government program designed to help small businesses. As stated on the U.S. Small Business Administration website:

“The Paycheck Protection Program is a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll.

SBA will forgive loans if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest or utilities.”

To meet these requirements, IT security is critical. Specifically, you need to protect your financial systems from demonstrating the funds have been used. If a small business cannot demonstrate compliance with SBA requirements, you may not be able to obtain loan forgiveness.

Paycheck Protection Program: IT Security Scenarios

Before we develop specific solutions, consider the different ways your organization might suffer IT security problems linked to the Paycheck Protection Program.

Threat Scenario 1: Scammer Attack

In this scenario, a scammer might send a phishing email to deceive a small business. Essentially, the scammer would claim to offer the protection program and then extract confidential data from a company. This data could then be used to commit fraud, obtain a ransom payment, and more.

Threat Scenario 2: Losing Access To Paycheck Protection Program

To protect taxpayers, governments impose tight controls. That includes the paycheck protection program. If somebody interfered with your data integrity, you might lose access to the paycheck protection program. For example, a disgruntled former employee or supplier might do this to cause chaos. It is a scary prospect! That’s another reason why you need to develop robust controls to ensure you have ongoing access to the paycheck protection program.

Threat Scenario 3: Lender Suffers A Security Incident

There are thousands of lenders participating in the Paycheck Protection Program. They have critical data to secure, including applications from small businesses, funds paid out and more. If any of these data points are compromised, it might impact your ability to access SBA programs as a lender.

As you consider these scenarios, decide which scenario applies most to your organization. The third scenario applies mainly to lenders. However, the first two scenarios apply more widely.

Short-Term IT Security Improvements

If your small business is operating on limited resources right now, you need simple ways to improve security. Unfortunately, there are few genuine quick fixes in IT security. Take a few minutes to double-check that you have the following activities in place.

● Patch/Update Management

Windows and other systems prompt you when there is a required update to install. Some employees may defer these reminders over and over again. Such behavior negatively impacts your IT security. Send a reminder to your staff to run updates on critical software as soon as possible.

● Reduce Inactive User Risk

Create a list of former employees, consultants and other individuals who have not worked with the organization in more than 30 days. Based on this list, audit your existing users across your systems. You are likely to find inactive users. For more insight on this security risk and how to address it, read our article: “Stopping Inactive User Account Risk Fast.”

● Review IT Security Reports For Open Issues

Many organizations conduct security tests like penetration tests and phishing email simulations. At the end of an engagement with an organization like this, you will receive a report. If you have not had a chance to implement those suggestions, now is a perfect time! For example, you might find out you are failing to enforce your password policy requirements. You can solve that problem by using a password management software solution.

Building Sustainable IT Security Program Improvements

Making a few quick fixes is helpful. It is like installing a new lock on one entrance of a warehouse filled with valuable products. Securing one entrance is better than nothing. However, it is also vital to regularly patrol the warehouse for intruders, have security cameras in place and check all of the entrances. Those steps will help you to build a successful physical security program.

Likewise, a successful IT security program needs to be comprehensive. At first, you might start with a focus on your financial data and systems to fulfill Paycheck Protection Program security expectations. However, that is not the only sensitive data to protect. There is also confidential employee and customer data to protect!

To build a comprehensive solution, every part of your identity and access program needs to be supported by software and solid processes. To get you started, consider these options:

  • Automate IT Security Password Changes. Use an IT security chatbot to make it easy for employees to get a new password, even during the evening and weekends.
  • Equip Your Employees With Biometric Authentication. Relying exclusively on traditional passwords is not a sound security strategy. Don’t believe us? Take a look at this list of major companies that already use multi-factor authentication: Which Companies Use Multi-Factor Authentication With Their Customers?

Support Effective IT Security Oversight. In IT security, there are so many different moving parts to maintain security. That’s why many companies have a “second pair of eyes” review their IT security, such as IT auditors. However, those professionals are busy. Make their IT security review easier by using a tool like the Compliance Auditor.

Written by Nelson Cicchitto