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The Tech Break

5 Steps to a Stronger Cybersecurity Program

Jun 30, 2020 / by Joseph Javien

5 Steps to a Stronger Cybersecurity ProgramA modern cybersecurity strategy is a must-have for any organization, regardless of what industry you work in and how large, or small, your company is. 

Why Should Organizations Have a Cybersecurity Program in Place?

There are many reasons why all organizations should have comprehensive cybersecurity preparedness programs in place. 

Cybercrime is Here to Stay

Global annual cybercrime damages are predicted to reach $6 trillion annually by 2021. However, the destruction wrought by cybercriminals goes far beyond monetary damages. A hack or breach can allow private or sensitive information to fall into the wrong hands. It can also ruin an organization’s reputation, causing extensive and sometimes irreversible damage to customer relationships.

Safeguard Sensitive Information

Every organization has at least some data they want to keep private, whether it is employee information, customer information, intellectual property, or a combination of all of these. 

The Cost of a Breach

When organizations don't exercise reasonable security practices, they face steep fines from regulatory bodies when breaches occur, but a hack or breach can cost an organization more than just money. 

Productivity can plummet if employees are locked out of critical systems and key players are pulled away from their usual tasks to deal with the crisis, both of which can seriously impact revenue. A survey conducted by the British government's digital culture, media, and sports department found that 41% of businesses that experienced a breach or cybersecurity attack needed employees to work overtime to deal with the situation, and 25% reported lost productivity among staff.

If any intellectual property is damaged or stolen during the hack or breach, you may not be able to recover it, a blow that can not only impact your revenue for the current year but also have long term ramifications. Finally, if clients' personal information is exposed or stolen, your organization may be sued, which can threaten your bottom line and reputation.

Safeguard Your Reputation

Even if your organization is able to absorb any monetary damages associated with the hack or breach, you may still suffer serious reputational damage. Depending on the severity of your reputational damage, and how effectively your team can respond to the incident, you may lose customers and have trouble attracting new customers in the future. 

Trust is easily lost but hard to regain, and depending on the severity of the incident and how well your organization responds to it, your reputation may never fully recover.

Save Lives

As IoT (internet of things) devices such as smart cars and medical equipment continue to flood the market, a breach could put lives at risk. 

The healthcare industry, in particular, is vulnerable. As more critical medical equipment is connected to networks and electronic medical records become the norm, an attacker could not only steal sensitive patient information but even theoretically change patient records or gain control over life-saving and life-sustaining equipment. An attack like this could allow malicious actors to administer incorrect dosages of medication or turn off equipment, which could compromise patient safety and potentially cost lives.

Office towers

What 5 Steps Should Organizations Take to Strengthen Their Cybersecurity Program?

It’s vital to have a solid understanding of your current cybersecurity posture. A thorough security assessment can point out any gaps in your existing protocols and tools so you can take appropriate steps to address them. A self-assessment or 3rd party assessment of the current state of these security domains will point you in the right direction towards a stronger security program: 

Make sure your assessment covers these 5 areas:

  • Network Security
  • Sensitive Data
  • Application Security
  • Security Monitoring and Alerting
  • Security Policies, Procedures, and Compliance

Step 1: Network Security Assessment

A thorough network security assessment should include either a manual assessment or rely on review tools that have been configured to assess the current security posture of your network. 

This step looks at how well protected your perimeter, internal, and wireless networks are and should focus on controls for point of access to data. Make sure you look for opportunities to decommission out of date equipment, patch software, and exchange default passwords for more robust passwords.

Step 2: Sensitive Data Assessment

Next, you should determine where and how sensitive data is stored and consider where stored sensitive data can be removed. Centralizing the storage of sensitive data can help you limit data retention and allow you to better focus your cybersecurity efforts, which can help minimize damage if your cybersecurity is compromised.

Application Security Assessment

As part of your sensitive data assessment, you should review the security posture of the applications you rely on to handle sensitive data. Make sure you understand the applications, the application processes, and the application servers and focus on key protection mechanisms for storing sensitive data. If there are weaknesses present in any of these areas, it can offer easy prey for compromising systems, allowing malicious actors to access data.

Security Monitoring & Alerting

You should also make sure that your assessment covers system monitoring, alerting, and access control. This step is designed to determine 2 things: if the environment is capable and if processes are in place to detect who, what, when, where, and how the environment is accessed. 

Step 3: Security Policies & Standard Operating Procedures

Make sure your entire team understands your security policies and standard operating procedures, and that these are up to date with today’s standards and current best business practices. You should also ensure that there are processes in place to guide how individuals operate within these policies. 

By reviewing your standard operating procedures and security policies regularly, you can review all the steps mentioned above and ensure that all controls are in place.

Step 4: Put Your Cybersecurity Program to the Test

Penetration Testing

You may also want to consider conducting pen tests to verify that your current security strategies are meeting your needs.

A pen (penetration) test involves hiring a cybersecurity expert to try to breach your network. The expert takes note of any gaps or other weaknesses they were able to exploit to gain access. A cybersecurity expert may gain unauthorized access via compromised credentials, applying a SQL injection to a web application or leveraging tools to exploit application vulnerabilities. 

When they have successfully completed their test, the expert provides a detailed report of their findings and recommendations for improving your cybersecurity posture.

Tabletop Scenarios

You may also want to consider running your team through red-team blue-team tabletop scenarios. Tabletop scenarios are similar to fire drills: your team is presented with a hypothetical cybersecurity incident that they need to respond to. To give your employees a fresh perspective, and help them get into the heads of cybercriminals, you may also want to consider splitting your team in 2 and having one side try and break through your defenses while the other mounts a defense.

Step 5: Review Employee Skills & Identify Gaps

Pen tests and tabletop exercises are a great tool for identifying security and process gaps and employee skill gaps. Any skill gaps should be addressed as soon as possible, either by expanding your team, providing more training to your existing employees, or supplementing your team with a scalable Security Team as a Service.

How Often Should My Organization Review Our Cybersecurity Program?

In short, you should be reviewing your cybersecurity programs as frequently as possible, though there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all schedule. However, even the best strategy can be rendered ineffective if it isn’t reviewed regularly to ensure it is still meeting your needs.

Some businesses may still be identifying their cybersecurity needs, while others are bound by strict regulations that require scheduled security audits.

How often your organization should review their cybersecurity preparedness program depends on a variety of factors. 

These include:

Partnering with a third-party cybersecurity expert can help you get the information you need to determine what gaps currently exist in your cybersecurity preparedness plan, how to address those gaps, and how often you should be reviewing your plan.

Topics: Business, Cybersecurity

Joseph Javien

Written by Joseph Javien

In 2006, Joseph joined Bird Rock Systems as a Sales Specialist II shortly after graduating from SDSU. Since then, he has risen through the ranks to the VP of Services role. With a passion for team success, Joseph seeks opportunities for improvement, motivation & coaching company wide.

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