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M&A Cyber Risk: The Inheritance that Nobody Wants

CyCognito | April 28, 2020

When you merge with or acquire an organization, you take on its risk, too.

There are many real-world examples of the drawbacks of inheriting an organization with unknown — or at least unmonitored — IT assets which have been breached. Here is a list of five things that you should look at when evaluating the cybersecurity posture of a merger or acquisition (M&A) target organization.

Avoid unnecessary risk by inspecting these five things:

1. Does your target have an up-to-date IT asset inventory? When was it last updated?

And which of those assets can be accessed via the internet?Manual inventory processes often miss new assets, those which have been long since forgotten, or even critical resources like cloud infrastructure, databases and servers. Assets which are directly connected to the internet can be discovered and pummeled by attackers who are opportunistically and indiscriminately looking for easy targets.

2. Has the target company performed any M&A activities of their own? Does it have subsidiaries that also need to be reviewed?

You need visibility to the target organization’s full attack surface. Assets may have been orphaned in your target’s earlier M&A processes, and subsidiaries belonging to the target can introduce their own risks.

3. Which IT assets are most important to the business? 

Once you’ve identified all the target’s assets, wherever they may reside, you need to understand which are most important to the business and thus most important to secure.

4. What are the target organization’s greatest IT risks? How many assets in the organization have exposures or misconfigurations, or are using old, vulnerable software? 

You need to thoroughly assess the organization’s security posture to understand which risks are most critical and how difficult it would be to remediate them.

5. How effective is the organization’s overall security posture? 

Finally, you’ll need to effectively communicate your overall assessment of the target organization’s security posture to your broader M&A evaluation task force or team. Assigning a rating to your assessment will have more credibility if the overall score is built upon a solid foundation: scores from the component departments and their assets.

How to Take Action

Taking a security-focused and comprehensive approach when acting on these five recommendations can help you accurately determine the extent of cybersecurity risk the target organization will bring to you should you decide to move forward.

The CyCognito platform gives you immediate visibility of the security posture of your subsidiaries. It identifies their attack surfaces and the effectiveness of their security controls, without requiring any deployment or configuration.

Learn More:

Solution Guide: Best Practices for Monitoring Subsidiary Risk

Rule Your Risk

CyCognito solves one of the most fundamental business problems in cybersecurity: seeing how attackers view your organization, where they are most likely to break in, what systems and assets are at risk and how you can eliminate the exposure.