When safeguarding your business against cyberattacks and data breaches, CISOs and compliance officers can choose from a wide range of information security controls: everything from firewalls to malware detection applications, and much more.

That abundance of possible security controls raises a question: which specific controls would be right for your organization?

Thankfully you don’t have to start from zero when implementing cybersecurity controls. Many cybersecurity standards and frameworks can help you select your IT systems properly. Not only will the standards help you establish an effective security program; they will also point you toward the areas where unauthorized access most commonly happens, and help steer your risk management and information security controls in the right direction.

What Are Information Security Controls?

Information security controls are safeguards and countermeasures designed to bolster the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of an organization’s IT assets.

The primary objective of information security controls is to maintain the confidentiality of sensitive data so that only authorized individuals have access to it. This involves implementing robust access controls, encryption mechanisms, and authentication protocols to prevent proprietary information from falling into the wrong hands.

The most widely used information security frameworks and standards include:

  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Special Publication 800-53, Security and Privacy Controls for Federal Information Systems and Organizations
  • International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard ISO 27001, Information Security Management
  • Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
  • The nonprofit Center for Internet Security

Types of Information Security Controls

Information security controls can be classified into three basic groups:

Preventive controls

As the name implies, preventive controls are designed to identify and address vulnerabilities within your information systems before those weaknesses become a gateway for cyber threats. Through diligent risk management practices, your team can identify potential weaknesses and take steps to fortify your systems. By mitigating risks in advance, you can significantly reduce the likelihood of experiencing a cybersecurity incident.

Detective controls

Detective controls act as guardians, alerting you to potential breach attempts and ongoing data breaches. These controls serve as early-warning systems, equipping your cybersecurity staff with timely information to take immediate action. By detecting and responding to threats swiftly, you can limit the extent of the damage and protect your valuable assets.

Corrective controls

Corrective controls enter the picture after an incident has happened. They exist to minimize damage, facilitate recovery, and repair weaknesses so a similar attack doesn’t happen again. For example, robust backup mechanisms are a corrective control because they let you restore compromised data. By employing effective backups, you can mitigate data loss and expedite the restoration of your systems, reducing downtime and restoring normal operations promptly.

For the sake of easy implementation, information security controls can also be classified into several types of data protection:

  • Physical access controls. These controls include restrictions on physical access, (such as security guards at building entrances), locks, closed-circuit security cameras, and perimeter fences.
  • Cyber access controls. These are cybersecurity controls and policies such as up-to-date firewalls, password policies, and software applications that alert you to risks such as ransomware attacks and phishing.
  • Procedural controls. These controls include security awareness education, security framework compliance training, incident response plans, and other procedures to enhance network security.
  • Technical controls. Increasingly common are controls such as multi-factor user authentication at login, to assure internal control access on a need-to-know basis.
  • Compliance controls. This means adherence to privacy laws, cybersecurity frameworks, and standards designed to minimize security risks. These controls typically require an information security risk assessment and impose information security requirements.

How to Place Security Controls?

When implementing information security controls, you need to follow a six-step sequence to fortify your defenses effectively.

1. Deter

Discourage potential intruders by displaying warning signs, employing security personnel, and using surveillance cameras to create a perception of strong security.

2. Deny/prevent Access

Establish strict access permissions and robust authentication mechanisms such as multi-factor authentication and strong passwords to prevent unauthorized entry.

3. Detect

Deploy detection mechanisms such as endpoint protection software, intrusion detection systems, and network monitoring tools to identify potential risks and threats swiftly. Log detections for analysis and understanding.

4. Delay

Introduce measures that slow down risks or attacks, such as implementing “too many attempts” functionality for password entries, increasing complexity, and reducing success rates.

4. Correct

Have a well-defined incident response plan to respond promptly to security breaches. Isolate affected systems, collect evidence, and take appropriate remedial actions to mitigate the impact.

5. Recover

Establish robust backup and recovery procedures to restore systems quickly to a secure and operational state. Regularly backup critical data, test restoration processes, and maintain backup generators for essential infrastructure.

Working Remotely Demands Separate Countermeasures Against Data Breaches

Many businesses sent a large percentage of employees to work from home in 2020 because of Covid, and a significant number of employees still work remotely today.

With that in mind, it’s a good idea to review your remote IT infrastructure, as well as the use of mobile devices and cloud-based web applications. For example, be sure to include your remote work IT environment when conducting vulnerability scans on your IT systems and software configurations. (It’s easy to “forget” hardware that’s not right there on campus, after all.)

Speaking of employees and emerging risks, also remember this: As your business grows and your IT structure becomes more sophisticated, train employees to stay current with your organization’s risk profile. Do so by conducting periodic security awareness training for everyone and scheduling regular inspections of whether your established security controls have kept up with the threat landscape.

8 Best Practices for Security Controls

Here’s a quick rundown of Information security controls best practices you can use to enhance your cybersecurity posture, mitigate risks associated with modern cyberthreats, and safeguard security control families.

  1. Keep strong passwords. Implement stringent password policies, including unique passwords for each user, a mix of characters, and regular password expiration to prevent unauthorized access and data breaches.
  2. Enact user access restrictions. Limit user access through access controls and permissions, following the principle of least privilege to minimize the potential for unauthorized access, malware spread, and improve compliance and audit processes.
  3. Embrace patch management. Perform regular updates and patches to address vulnerabilities in operating systems and third-party software, reducing the risk of cyberattacks and improving system security and performance.
  4. Use firewall protection. Employ firewalls to regulate incoming and outgoing network traffic, establishing a strong barrier against unauthorized access and potential threats to your business.
  5. Use VPN encryption. Use a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt data and protect privacy when connecting to public networks, assuring anonymity and safeguarding against potential hackers.
  6. Use antivirus software. Install enterprise-grade antivirus and anti-malware software on all devices and systems to detect and remove malicious threats automatically.
  7. Encourage multi-factor authentication (MFA). Implement MFA to add an extra layer of security beyond passwords, requiring additional verification factors like PINs, authenticator apps, or biometric data to assure secure user authentication.
  8. Schedule regular data backup. Back up important files, including sensitive information and cloud applications, to protect against data loss due to compromise or unforeseen events, ensuring minimal disruption to operations.

Compliance Management Made Easy With RiskOptics

As you forge a path for your business in our post-pandemic, highly interdependent world, many tools can help keep your business safe and your data information secure.

The RiskOptics ROAR Platform is an intuitive, easy-to-understand platform that keeps track of your workflow and lets you find areas of high risk before that risk has manifested as a real threat.

You can rely on it to see, understand, and act on IT and cyber risks while simultaneously automating compliance, helping you make strategic decisions and win the trust of your customers, partners, and employees.

For more information on how RiskOptics can help your business, contact us for a demo.

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