5 Mistakes That Cost Millions During M&A

Joe Wynn

Understanding the Stakes

In the world of Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A), the potential for growth and financial gain is immense. Yet, within this landscape, security risks often lurk in the shadows. Overlooking these risks can lead to a significant devaluation of your company, financial losses, and reputational damage. This article explores five critical security mistakes that can undermine organizations during M&A transactions. By shedding light on these pitfalls and offering actionable insights, we aim to guide businesses toward a secure and prosperous M&A process.

1. Insufficient Data Protection Measures

During mergers and acquisitions, sensitive data is exchanged rapidly. Without robust protection measures, your confidential information could end up in the wrong hands faster than you can say, “Oops.” It’s imperative to roll up your sleeves and implement stringent security measures to safeguard your data.

Implementing Encryption and Access Controls, Including 2FA

Encryption and access controls serve as the vigilant guardians of your data. They ensure that only authorized individuals can access sensitive information, rendering potential attackers mere spectators. Avoid treating your data casually; instead, implement encryption and access controls, including Two-Factor Authentication (2FA), to keep your valuable information securely under lock and key.

Two-factor authentication (2FA) adds an extra layer of security by requiring users to provide two forms of identification before granting access. Typically, this involves something the user knows (like a password) and something the user has (like a one-time code from a mobile app). By incorporating 2FA, you significantly enhance the security of your systems, making it considerably more difficult for unauthorized individuals to gain access.

2. Poor Software Development Practices

In the realm of mergers and acquisitions, the quality of software development practices holds immense significance, reduces tech debt, and increases platform reusability and your overall ability to scale your solution. Overlooking the intricacies of software quality and development can lead to dire consequences. These are some of the pitfalls that can undermine your organization’s security posture:

Vulnerable Code

Just as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, software is only as secure as its most vulnerable component. Neglecting proper code review and testing can introduce vulnerabilities malicious actors are eager to exploit. Prioritize thorough code audits and testing to fortify your software against potential breaches.

Hard-Coded Secrets

Imagine entrusting a valuable item to a locked box but leaving the key taped to its side. Hard-coding sensitive information, like credentials or encryption keys, directly into software is a common yet perilous practice. It leaves your organization exposed should the code fall into the wrong hands. Employ secure methods of secrets management to keep sensitive data separate from the codebase.

Lack of Secure Development Training

Addressing the potential lack of secure development training among your development teams is vital.

Insufficient training on secure development practices can lead to the introduction of vulnerabilities during the software development process. Without a clear understanding of security best practices, developers may inadvertently create code susceptible to exploitation.

You must invest in ongoing secure development training for your development teams. Ensure they are well-versed in secure coding principles, vulnerability detection and mitigation techniques. By prioritizing security in the development process, you can reduce the risk of introducing vulnerabilities and devaluing your organization during M&A transactions.

By prioritizing these practices, you can bolster your software’s security, reduce the risk of breaches, and enhance the overall value of your company during acquisition.

3. Incomplete Software Licensing Practices and the Vital Role of SBOM

Just as you wouldn’t embark on a journey without proper documentation, software packages in your codebase require accurate licensing. Incomplete or improper software licensing practices can lead to legal entanglements and financial repercussions, making it a critical aspect of your software development and M&A strategy. Here’s why it matters:

Understanding the Licensing Landscape:

The software world operates within a complex web of licenses, each with its own terms and conditions. Failure to understand and adhere to these licenses can result in costly legal battles and reputation damage.

The Role of SBOM:

Enter the Software Bill of Materials (SBOM), a comprehensive inventory of the software components used in an application. An SBOM not only lists the components but also includes critical licensing information. It serves as a roadmap to understanding the licensing obligations associated with each component, helping you steer clear of legal pitfalls during M&A transactions.

Why SBOM Matters in M&A:

During M&A, due diligence is extensive, and potential buyers or partners will scrutinize every aspect of your organization, including your software assets. Incomplete or inaccurate licensing documentation can be a red flag, raising doubts about your organization’s compliance and increasing the risk of deal disruptions.

Take Action:

To ensure robust software licensing practices and the inclusion of SBOM in your M&A strategy:

  • Educate Your Team: Make sure your development team is well-versed in different software licenses and understands the implications of each.
  • Implement SBOM: Incorporate the use of SBOM in your software development process. It not only helps you manage licensing effectively but also demonstrates a commitment to transparency in M&A transactions.
  • Regular Audits: Conduct periodic audits of your software assets to ensure compliance with licensing terms.

By prioritizing comprehensive software licensing practices and the integration of SBOM, you not only mitigate legal risks but also contribute to a smoother and more secure M&A process. Remember, in M&A, every detail matters and proper licensing is a critical piece of the puzzle.

4. Neglecting Third-Party Risks: Guarding Your Digital Fort

In the dynamic realm of mergers and acquisitions, success hinges not only on the companies involved but also on the extended network of data custodians, including suppliers, vendors, and partners. Knowing where your data resides and ensuring its protection, even in the hands of third parties, is critical to mitigating security risks. Failing to address these risks is akin to leaving your front door wide open while hoping for the best. It’s time to don your detective hat and preemptively identify potential threats before they can wreak havoc.

Establishing a Fortified Third-Party Risk Management Arsenal

Once you’ve uncovered potential third-party risks, the path to security involves the establishment of robust protocols and safeguards. Consider this your arsenal against digital threats. Here’s what you should do:

  • Set Clear Expectations: Clearly define your security expectations with third parties. Establish stringent security standards that they must meet to handle your data.
  • Conduct Comprehensive Due Diligence: Investigate the security measures and track record of third-party entities. Scrutinize their cybersecurity practices, compliance with regulations, and incident response capabilities.
  • Forge Ironclad Contracts: Just as you wouldn’t trust a shady street magician with your wallet, don’t entrust your data to third parties without ironclad contractual agreements. Ensure these agreements specify security responsibilities, breach notification procedures, and consequences for non-compliance.

By championing these practices, you reinforce your organization’s defense against third-party risks and enhance its resilience in the complex landscape of mergers and acquisitions. Remember, your digital fort is only as strong as its weakest link, and every third-party entity must contribute to the overall security fortress.

5. Overlooking Regulatory Compliance

When it comes to regulations, ignorance is not bliss; it’s a recipe for disaster. Overlooking regulatory compliance during mergers and acquisitions is like trying to drive a car with square wheels – it’s just not going to work. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the relevant regulations and ensure you’re playing by the rules.

Ensuring Compliance with Data Protection and Privacy Laws

Data protection and privacy laws are not just fancy words thrown around to sound important; they exist for a reason. Ignoring these laws during M&A deals is like wearing a neon sign that says, “Please sue me.” Make sure you understand and comply with data protection and privacy laws to avoid unwanted legal trouble.

Bonus Tip: Neglecting to Incorporate Security Considerations into Integration Strategies

Once the M&A deal is sealed, it’s time to integrate the systems and processes of both companies. However, this integration can be as tricky as trying to navigate a labyrinth blindfolded. Security programs, in particular, can pose significant challenges. Neglecting to plan for the seamless integration of security measures can create gaps in protection, leaving your newly formed entity vulnerable to attacks. To mitigate this risk, it’s essential to incorporate security considerations into integration strategies from the outset, ensuring that protective measures are integrated smoothly and effectively.

What now?

These critical security mistakes can lead to losing significant value when you sell your company. Each mistake is a ticking time bomb, waiting to explode and harm your financial interests.

Optimize your company’s value by implementing sound practices by addressing these key-critical problems with an audit-ready security program.

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