As an enterprise leader or cybersecurity professional, you know that the threat landscape is expanding. You also know that cybercriminals get smarter every day, using ever-more sophisticated weapons to attack organizations, disrupt operations, and compromise sensitive IT assets.
To protect your organization from these attackers, you must assess and strengthen your cybersecurity posture. In this blog we’ll show you how to do both. Let’s start by first understanding what cybersecurity posture actually means.
What Is Security Posture?
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) define security posture as:
The security status of an enterprise’s networks, information, and systems, based on information security resources and capabilities in place to manage enterprise defense and react as the situation changes.
Simply put, your organization’s security (or cybersecurity) posture refers to its cybersecurity strength and overall readiness to deal with a potential attack. It encompasses all the controls – tools, processes, security policies, and training programs – you’ve implemented to protect the organization from threats and threat actors.
The Importance of Cybersecurity Posture
Failing to understand your security posture can leave your organization vulnerable to all kinds of threats and future attacks. In addition to business disruptions and data loss, these events can result in financial losses, reputational damage, regulatory penalties, and legal troubles.
To determine how prepared you are to deal with such risks, you must understand your cybersecurity posture. Only by understanding where the organization is most vulnerable can you establish a plan to strengthen security controls and create a more secure operational environment.
Cybersecurity Posture vs. Cybersecurity Risk
Cybersecurity posture is not the same as cybersecurity risk. The latter refers to a potential loss that could result from a data breach or cyberattack. Cybersecurity posture refers to the security status – specifically, the security readiness – of all the networks, hardware, software, services, applications, and sensitive data within the enterprise.
A Step-by-Step Approach to Evaluate Your Security Posture
To determine your organization’s cybersecurity posture, it’s helpful to ask questions such as:
- Do we have complete visibility of our attack surface?
- Can we predict cyber threats effectively?
- Can we quickly respond to and contain them?
- How fast can we recover from security events such as malware attacks?
- And perhaps most importantly, can we prevent these and other kinds of cyberattacks?
To answer these questions, a thorough and holistic cyber risk assessment is crucial, in addition to an evaluation of business needs and objectives. Here are some basic steps to follow.
Step 1: Identify Business Needs and Objectives
Although your fundamental priority will always be to protect the organization from cyberattacks, how you go about achieving this goal will vary depending on specific needs. For instance, if you need to establish a secure remote working environment, you need policies and tools to secure remote devices and WiFi networks.
That’s why a cybersecurity posture assessment always starts by first understanding the business needs and imperatives. These needs will determine which security controls you need to prioritize and implement to strengthen the security posture.
Step 2: Create an Asset Inventory
To strengthen your security posture, you need to know what you are protecting. That’s why you need to identify all the assets within your IT landscape, and you do that by taking an inventory.
To create the inventory, list all assets (both hardware and software) and classify them from least to most vulnerable. Also, categorize them by business criticality. This exercise will help you calculate and quantify the risk of a breach to an asset.
Once you’ve identified the various points of vulnerability and potential attack pathways, you can start thinking about ways to minimize the security risk to these assets.
Step 3: Assess Existing Security Controls
Enumerate all the controls you already have to detect, prevent, and respond to security threats and risks. Do you have firewalls? Intrusion detection systems? Automated alerting systems like SIEM? Employee training?
Identify these controls and assess their effectiveness in preventing and revealing security issues. Determine which controls should be strengthened and whether new controls should be added to the security ecosystem.
Step 4: Identify Attack Vectors and Cybersecurity Risks
Attack vectors are the various methods that adversaries use to attack your network. These include malware, ransomware, viruses, compromised credentials, phishing, inadequate software patching, device misconfigurations, and poor encryption. Each of these cybersecurity threats poses a risk to the organization.
Assess the risk by estimating the probability of a loss event multiplied by the magnitude of loss resulting from that event. By understanding the pathways hackers might take to undermine your organization and by quantifying each risk, you can plan your cybersecurity strategy and take steps to address the risk.
Step 5: Create a Map of Your Attack Surface
Your asset inventory and attack vectors together make up the attack surface. Knowing which assets you own and the ways by which attackers may try to compromise them will guide your efforts towards fortifying your security posture.
You will also be able to select the proper cybersecurity framework to address data security and other risks and implement effective incident response plans. Assure the framework provides clear guidelines to identify potential risks, implement protective measures, detect cyber threats, respond to security events, and recover after an attack.
Strategies to Fortify Your Security Posture
Here are some steps that will help you strengthen your cybersecurity posture.
Automate Asset Inventory Management
Manually updating your asset inventory will become a cumbersome and time-consuming activity as your IT ecosystem grows. That said, you can’t afford to have an outdated inventory if a strong security posture is your goal – so you’ll need to embrace automation.
Automating your asset inventory management process will streamline activities and reduce the potential for errors. Your asset inventory will be updated in real-time so you can quickly revise your security measures to maintain asset security and integrity.
Identify Asset Risk Owners
After identifying all business-critical assets and completing the cybersecurity risk analysis, assign an actual person to “own” each risk. This person will be responsible for assuring that the necessary controls are in place to avoid or mitigate the risks to their assets.
Continuously Monitor All Assets and Vulnerabilities
Monitor all assets for vulnerabilities across multiple attack vectors. Regularly evaluate each vulnerability with a vulnerability management program. Assure that the risk owner has a plan to fix issues before those issues lead to a loss event.
Conduct Third-Party Vendor Assessments
Assessing the cybersecurity posture of your third-party vendors and partners (especially those that handle your confidential data or that provide mission-critical services) will help you strengthen your own security posture. Identify their vulnerabilities and how they could damage your organization if a threat actor exploits them.
Define Metrics to Measure the Security Posture
Define the right metrics and service-level agreements (SLAs) to improve visibility into the attack surface and resolve vulnerabilities and risk issues quickly. These metrics will help you assess the effectiveness of security controls and highlight opportunities to strengthen them.
Reciprocity ROAR Helps You Strengthen Your Cybersecurity Posture
Assess and strengthen your cybersecurity risk posture with Reciprocity ROAR. With ROAR, you can see, understand, evaluate, and act on your IT and cyber risks. This intuitive and intelligent platform provides a real-time view of risk framed around your business priorities.
Contextual insights help you understand the risk implications of various processes and make data-driven decisions to protect your enterprise from the bad guys. To see how Reciprocity ROAR can help your business, schedule a demo.