Cybersecurity Basics: What Do the Pros Look For?

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The idea that everyone needs a cybersecurity plan isn’t entirely new; the internet has allowed businesses to enhance their productivity, but it’s also provided a new venue for fraudsters and malicious actors to attack businesses, gain access to sensitive information, and compromise networks. There’s a lot of advice out there about how to prepare, and for the most part, it’s sound advice to follow: ensure there’s a good firewall around your network, have a plan in place for when a system gets breached, and test defenses for vulnerabilities.  

While having these things would often be “good enough” for most business leaders, what aspects of cybersecurity are key to a strong cybersecurity posture? Here are a few things everyone should know: 

Three Pillars of Effective Cybersecurity Preparation 

Like any industry, cybersecurity can be a complicated field with nuances that can impact how an organization prepares for potential attacks. However, there are a few things that every organization has in common, such as: 

  • A governance and cybersecurity framework 
  • Technology that can withstand the attack 
  • Operational systems that enable employees to carry out the cybersecurity framework 

These three pillars represent that basic needs of a cybersecurity team. Organizations that want to defend their networks have to have a set of policies and procedures in place that enable employees to understand what to prioritize during an attack and how they should respond to different kinds of attacks. A more detailed explanation of the importance of IT governance can be found here

Once those policies are in place, the business should invest in technology that would enable them to resist an attack when it arises. This could look like a firewall, but the most robust investments include a combination of firewalls, network monitoring tools, and server compartmentalization. The goal is to keep attackers out, but by segmenting the network, organization create barriers so that there’s enough time to implement the response plan outlined in an organization’s governance and cybersecurity framework in the case of a breach. 

From an operational perspective, there should be a process by which information gleaned from incident reports and penetration testing is implemented to help make the networks and servers more secure overall. 

Where Do Experts Look When Evaluating Cybersecurity Posture 

An organization’s cybersecurity posture is defined by its ability to defend and react to a cyber threat, so evaluating the security posture of a business takes into account everything at its disposal.  

However, when working with a security analyst, the focus can be narrowed depending on the client’s goals. The key area where focus should be narrowed is establishing an asset inventory for the business. An asset inventory is important because it enables an organization to identify what they have, who has access to it, and what kinds of controls leaders would want to implement to ensure the network remains secure. By keeping track of hardware and software throughout the IT environment, organizations can then utilize that to establish what’s known as an attack surface.  

An attack surface consists of all possible ways by which an organization’s network can be attacked, and understanding what this is for a business’s IT environment will enable leaders to devise controls on different assets and prioritize responses based on the risks those assets can present. 

In addition to developing an accurate asset inventory and assessing an organization’s attack surface, identifying the cyber risk of an organization is the next step in evaluating cyber risk to individual assets. 

What’s Meant by “Cyber Risk?” 

Cyber risk can be thought of as the opposite of security posture, because it measures the impact that an attack would have on the organization’s ability to function. It can be measured by multiplying the likelihood of an attack by the impact an attack would have on a specific vulnerability. 

The likelihood is a factor of the mitigating controls in place on the asset, the threat level that particular asset faces, and vulnerabilities to that asset, whereas impact is determined by the value that such a disruption would cost. 

The better the security posture, the lower the cyber risk overall. 

Limited Resources Doesn’t Mean Limited Options 

While it’s tempting to think that a business is too small or too insignificant in the industry to draw the attention of attackers, there’s a risk regardless of size that a business can be infiltrated and shut down as a result of malware. That’s why it’s critical to have something in place other than hope to ensure that networks remain safe. 

At a minimum, investing in an open source antivirus software or network traffic monitoring will go a long way to protecting organizational networks from malicious actors. However, one of the biggest things any organization can do to protect their networks is to provide robust cyber security training for employees. People are one of the leading cybersecurity risks because they’re vulnerable to social engineering attacks that can lead to a system breach. 

If an organization is struggling to identify areas where they can improve their cybersecurity posture, then contact us