The cyber-threat landscape is complex and alarming; a company cannot rely on traditional cybersecurity tools to protect its assets and data from today’s risk and threat actors.

Instead, in today’s threat landscape, strong cybersecurity starts with a holistic cybersecurity strategy – and for that, you first need to understand and strengthen your organization’s cybersecurity posture.

What Is Cybersecurity Risk Posture?

Security posture” refers to an organization’s ability to protect its networks, information, and systems from threats. Since the primary threat to these resources is cyber attacks, security posture and cybersecurity posture are generally synonymous terms.

Cybersecurity posture is the collective security status of all your IT assets. This includes the IT infrastructure, hardware, software, endpoints, IoT devices, and information.

The strength of a cybersecurity posture is based on the security capabilities and systems you have in place to improve cybersecurity, including:

  • Security tools like firewalls, anti-malware, and antivirus software;
  • Security policies;
  • Risk analysis programs;
  • Data breach prevention procedures;
  • Vendor risk management programs;
  • Vulnerability management programs;
  • Penetration testing;
  • Employee cybersecurity training.

How Do You Assess Cybersecurity Risk Posture?

Examining your security posture is the first step in determining your cybersecurity maturity level and cyber breach risk. You should be able to respond to the following questions:

  • How secure is the company?
  • Is our cybersecurity plan sound?
  • How adequate are our security controls?
  • Can we reliably assess breach risk and cyber-resilience?
  • What are our vulnerabilities to future breaches and attacks?
  • What is the effectiveness of our vulnerability management program?
  • How can we grade and benchmark the organization’s various risk owners?
  • What is the best strategy to approach the board of directors about the organization’s security posture?

There are three keys steps in security posture assessment:

Step 1: Get an Accurate IT Asset Inventory

The first step in assessing your security posture is to create a detailed inventory of all your assets.

You require a precise and up-to-date inventory of your organization’s hardware, software, and network pieces. However, simply being aware of an asset isn’t enough. You must also have extensive information about each asset to comprehend the risk associated with the asset.

Step 2: Map Your Attack Surface

The second stage in assessing your security posture is to map your attack surface. Your attack surface is made up of all the locations on your network where an enemy may try to get access to your information systems.

The attack surface for a medium to large-sized organization might be enormous. With hundreds of thousands of assets potentially targeted by hundreds of attack vectors, your attack surface might range from tens of millions to hundreds of billions of data points you must monitor constantly.

Step 3: Understand Your Cyber Risk

Understanding your cyber risk is the final stage in assessing your security posture. Your security posture has an inverse connection with cyber risk. Your cyber risk lowers as your security posture improves.

Risk is defined mathematically as the chance of a loss occurrence (likelihood) multiplied by the degree of loss arising from that loss event (impact). For example, the possibility of exposure or failure due to a cyberattack or data breach is called cyber risk.

Importance of Cybersecurity Posture

Cybersecurity is important because gaps in cybersecurity leave you vulnerable to a cyber attack or data breach, which can harm sensitive assets’ integrity, availability, and confidentiality. A data breach can also result in hefty financial costs, regulatory enforcement, and reputational damage.

Awareness of your cybersecurity posture is vital because that posture affects security-related decisions. You need to understand your posture to avoid ending up making security investments that are unnecessarily expensive, ineffective, or not required at all.

A keen understanding of cybersecurity posture allows you to identify security weaknesses and anticipate your organization’s ability to withstand cybersecurity threats, such as:

  • Malware or ransomware;
  • DDoS or MitM attacks;
  • Network intrusions;
  • Advanced persistent threats (APTs);
  • Data breaches.

Ultimately, this understanding will help you take the right actions to create a more secure IT environment.

Many laws and regulations, such as HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and PCI-DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard), have strict data security requirements. A robust cybersecurity posture helps you to comply with these laws, protect sensitive information, and avoid costly regulatory penalties.

What Strong Cybersecurity Posture Looks Like

Companies can take a variety of security measures to achieve a strong cybersecurity posture. Below are three examples of the steps a company might take to complete that strong posture.

Example #1

  • The program is driven by the company’s strategic objectives and goals.
  • The security team has performed data classification to know which data is vital to the business.
  • A robust incident response plan is in place.
  • Security processes are documented and can rapidly adapt to changing business needs and new threats.
  • Strong security controls are in place.
  • Routine security awareness training is part of the organization’s security culture.

Example #2

  • Reliable security services, procedures, measures, and controls are in place to manage perimeter defenses.
  • All security measures can respond quickly to potential breaches or cyberattacks.
  • The security team maintains an up-to-date, comprehensive inventory of all IT assets and monitors them to protect them against the following:
    • Phishing attacks
    • Malware attacks
    • Password weaknesses
    • Unpatched software
    • Security vulnerabilities
  • Security admins conduct regular vulnerability analyses to find and fix exploitable weaknesses.
  • A robust vendor management program is in place to conduct due diligence on third-party vendors to verify they have adequate security measures.

Example #3

  • Up-to-date security tools are used to deter attacks, including:
    • Firewalls
    • Antivirus
    • Antimalware
    • Anti-phishing
    • Email security tools
  • Regular risk assessments are conducted to identify, prioritize, and mitigate risks.
  • Security personnel leverage automated cybersecurity tools to improve incident response.
  • Employees are regularly tested on security policies and cybersecurity hygiene.
  • Administrative access privileges are limited and adequately controlled by the security team or CISO (chief information security officer).
  • Security metrics are deployed to measure the effectiveness of cybersecurity practices regularly.

Strategies to Improve Your Cybersecurity Posture

Assess IT Regularly

Your cybersecurity posture constantly changes as new security risks, vulnerabilities, and threats emerge. To maintain a strong stance and robust IT security, monitor it by regularly assessing your:

Create a comprehensive inventory of IT assets, understand the risks associated with each asset, and monitor how these risks are changing. Also, map your attack surface by identifying all the access points that may allow an adversary to compromise your assets and information systems.

Finally, implement security ratings to measure the security posture in real-time, monitor security issues, and identify at-risk assets.

Conduct Regular Risk Assessments

Risk has an inverse relationship with cybersecurity posture. That is, as one becomes stronger, the other weakens. A cybersecurity risk assessment can help you to understand the probability of potential loss from a cyberattack or data breach, mitigate risks, and strengthen the overall cybersecurity posture.

As you assess risks, consider the following:

  • Business criticality of each asset;
  • The severity of known vulnerabilities;
  • Threat levels;
  • Potential for vulnerability exploitation;
  • Effectiveness of existing security controls.

Such an assessment will help you accurately picture your cyber risk and prioritize risk mitigation activities.

Establish Clear Security Controls and Policies

To ensure that the organization can effectively detect and prevent cyberattacks, robust security controls and policies are vital. If an attack does happen, these controls and procedures will guide action-taking and decision-making to minimize damage.

To start, identify the security personnel who will lead an incident response. Then design and document detailed processes to guide the actions to be taken by personnel.

Next, implement automated cybersecurity tools to:

  • Keep hackers out of the enterprise network;
  • Reduce incident response times;
  • Effectively triage alerts;
  • Reduce alert fatigue.

You can also leverage automation for the real-time inventory of assets to improve risk identification, prioritization, and mitigation. Make sure you also:

It’s beneficial to follow established benchmarks and security frameworks from groups such as NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) to guide you with the following:

  • Recognizing potential risks;
  • Implementing appropriate security procedures;
  • Monitoring for threats and vulnerabilities;
  • Preparing an incident response plan;
  • Planning for cyberattacks through penetration testing.

Educate Employees on Cybersecurity Hygiene

Security awareness training boosts your cybersecurity posture since it helps all employees understand the importance of good cyber hygiene. Include examples, so they realize the potential consequences of cyberattacks and data breaches. This will help them recognize, respond to, and prevent such events.

Make training a required part of the employee onboarding process. Regularly test employees by sending them fake phishing emails and engaging them in social engineering encounters.

Reinforce training by promoting a strong security culture, where security considerations drive every organizational action and decision. Consistently reinforce cybersecurity best practices and identify security evangelists who can help drive a security-oriented mindset throughout the organization.

Track Security Metrics

Security metrics help you measure the effectiveness of your cybersecurity policies, controls, and practices. They can also guide you with risk prioritization and mitigation strategies. At the very least, you should have metrics in place to:

  • Improve visibility into the threat landscape;
  • Track the resolution of vulnerabilities and risk issues;
  • Measure security control effectiveness.

Let Reciprocity ROAR Help You Manage Cybersecurity

The Reciprocity® ROAR Platform is intuitive and straightforward to use. It streamlines evidence management, workflows, and reporting for cybersecurity risk management and regulatory compliance.

Security policies, incident response procedures, and internal controls must be documented and updated regularly to ensure they meet the evolving cybersecurity environment. ROAR’s document repository makes policies and procedures revision-controlled and easy to find.

Insightful reporting and dashboards provide visibility to gaps and high-risk areas. By better understanding your risk landscape, you can take action to protect your business from cyberattacks, avoid costly data breaches, and monitor the security posture of your vendors.

Strengthen your cybersecurity posture by leveraging ROAR’s single source of truth to highlight critical threats and vulnerabilities affecting your organization.

Schedule a free demo of ROAR today.

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