The cyber-threat landscape is both complex and alarming; a company cannot rely on traditional cybersecurity tools alone to protect your assets and data from today’s risk and threat actors.
Rather, 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 a Cybersecurity 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.
Importance of Cybersecurity Posture
Cybersecurity is important because gaps in cybersecurity leave you vulnerable to a cyber attack or data breach, which can harm the integrity, availability, and confidentiality of sensitive assets. A data breach can result in hefty financial costs, regulatory enforcement, and reputational damage as well.
Awareness of your cybersecurity posture is vital because that posture affects security-related decisions. Without understanding your posture, you may end 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 achieve that strong posture.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- Up-to-date security tools are used to deter attacks, including:
- 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 their cybersecurity hygiene.
- Administrative access privileges are limited and properly controlled by the security team or CISO (chief information security officer).
- Security metrics are deployed to regularly measure the effectiveness of cybersecurity practices.
Strategies to Improve Your Cybersecurity Posture
Assess It Regularly
Your cybersecurity posture changes constantly as new security risks, vulnerabilities, and threats emerge. To maintain a strong posture and robust IT security, monitor it by regularly assessing your:
- Existing security policies;
- Risk assessment and management processes;
- Vulnerability management program;
- Cybersecurity training program;
- User behaviors;
- Security controls;
- Overall cybersecurity culture and awareness.
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 create an accurate picture of your cyber risk and prioritize risk mitigation activities.
Establish Clear Security Controls and Policies
To assure that the organization can effectively detect and prevent cyberattacks, robust security controls and policies are vital. If an attack does happen, these controls and policies will guide action-taking and decision-making to minimize damage.
To start, identify the security personnel who will lead 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:
- Develop a robust third-party/vendor risk assessment framework;
- Implement strong access control mechanisms;
- Limit and control administrative access privileges.
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:
- 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 your 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 every organizational action and decision is driven by security considerations. 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.
Optimize Your Cybersecurity Posture with ZenGRC
ZenGRC‘s governance, risk management, and compliance software is intuitive and simple to use. It streamlines evidence management, workflows, and reporting for risk management and regulatory compliance.
Security policies, incident response procedures, and internal controls must be documented and updated regularly to assure they meet the evolving cybersecurity environment. With ZenGRC’s document repository, policies and procedures are revision-controlled and easy to find.
Workflow management features offer easy tracking, automated reminders, and audit trails. The ZenConnect feature enables integration with popular tools, such as Jira, ServiceNow, and Slack, ensuring seamless adoption within your enterprise.
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 ZenGRC’s single source of truth to highlight critical threats and vulnerabilities affecting your organization.
Schedule a free demo of ZenGRC today.