M&A on laptop Merger and acquisition strategy. Source: Shutterstock

Given the hundreds of merger and acquisition applications approved each year by the NCUA, M&As remain an appealing strategy for growth. However, in today’s cyberworld, merging with another company also means adopting another company’s network infrastructure, software assets and all the security vulnerabilities that come with it. In fact, consulting firm West Monroe Partners reported that 40% of acquiring businesses discovered a high-risk security problem after an M&A was completed.

A case in point: In the early 2000s, I was part of a team heavily involved during and after the merger of two large financial institutions. We quickly came to the realization that the entities had two completely different approaches to cybersecurity. One had a robust testing program revolving around penetration testing (or pentesting) and leveraged an industry standard framework to benchmark its software security initiative annually. The other did not do as much penetration testing but focused more on architecture and design level reviews as its security benchmarking activity. Trying to unify these divergent approaches quickly brought to the surface myriad vulnerabilities that required immediate remediation. However, the acquired entity didn’t have the business cycle or funding needed for the task, which created a backlog of several hundred thousand issues needing to be addressed. This caused delays in the M&A timing because terms and conditions had to be created. Both parties also had to agree to timelines within which the organizations would address identified vulnerabilities and the approach they would take to prioritize remediation activities accordingly.

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