For most companies, determining acceptable levels of risk will be incredibly subjective. And in most cases, it comes down to the ethos of senior leadership: Are your leaders growth-oriented risk-takers, or do you have a more conservative and measured leadership team running the ship?

Other factors that can influence risk include your company’s reputation in an industry. If you’re known for being at the top of your field for processing and storing personal data for customers, your security posture will likely be more rigid and thorough as opposed to a small company that’s trying out new tactics for optimizing cloud services.

The bottom line is, your company’s security risk posture is highly dependent on your company’s overall risk management process and character.

What is cyber posture?

Cyber posture, also referred to as security posture, is your organization’s security status of all software, networks, services, and information. Your cyber posture measures all controls and procedures that protect your company from cyberattacks, along with your organization’s ability to defend against cybercriminals and your ability to react or recover from any data breaches.

How do you assess security posture?

Beyond describing your company’s policies, your security posture refers to your company’s level of comfort around current cyber risks. Another way to think about this is risk appetite:

Assessing security posture involves a vulnerability assessment to uncover any gaps in your cybersecurity system. It’s best to recruit an external auditor or security consultant who can review your current IT ecosystem to identify any security issues.

Your vulnerability assessment report should include recommendations to fix any gaps in your system, and provide information about current business processes that could be impacted by weaknesses in your IT system.

Following a report, penetration testing is useful to examine your IT environment after remediating any cybersecurity gaps found during the assessment. Penetration testing is a great way to gauge your company’s preparedness for cyberattacks and can help your team understand how well your system responds to data breaches or phishing attempts.

How can I improve my security posture?

Improving security posture hinges on your organization’s risk management program. Once your team has a better idea of data security weaknesses following a vulnerability assessment, you’ll be well-poised to tackle the next step: Creating and implementing a bulletproof risk-management plan and strong cybersecurity strategy.

If you don’t already have one established in your organization, start by creating a risk management team. Your team should include leaders from all departments and include the following: Chief information security officer, privacy officer, compliance officer, marketing representative, product management officer, and a human resources specialist.

Once your risk management team is assembled, you should catalogue your business assets in full, including infrastructure and any services your company provides. Be sure to include third-party vendors in your asset list, because they will pose one of the greatest risks to your company’s information security.

Cybersecurity risk assessment is a big part of the risk management process, and should take place for all business assets identified. Consider risks to systems, networks, and software that are critical to your business operations, and determine sensitive information that requires availability, confidentiality, and integrity maintained. This process is crucial and will help your team then analyze each identified risk and determine probability and impact of each security threat.

After your risk assessment is complete, set security controls including network segregation, encryption, anti-malware and anti-ransomware software, firewall configuration, and multi-factor authentication. Other security controls include password protocols, workforce security awareness training, and developing a vendor risk management program.

Finally, to help round out your risk management program and elevate your cybersecurity posture, create ongoing monitoring and review incident response protocols. With cyberattacks an ever-present risk, your organization should aim to monitor continuously in real-time for cyber threats.