Cyber security. Not only do all organizations need it, but most organizations need to improve it. As hackers and all other manner of cyber criminals get increasingly crafty, the average cyber security team is struggling to keep pace. As it turns out, the road to hell is paved with well-intentioned but somewhat unfocused cyber security efforts.
Therefore, developing a cyber security strategy is a good foundational step for obtaining the level of cyber security necessary to protect your business, employees, customers and reputation. And taking attention of these five key considerations is a good foundational step for developing a cyber security strategy.
Set out clear objectives
All organizations need cyber security, but what works for one organization could be a disaster for another. This is not the place to attempt to implement a one size fits all approach. To begin to understand what your cyber security objectives should be, you need a solid understanding of the threat landscape as well as where your organization and critical business operations fit into it. Does your organization need to better protect customer data? Become fully compliant with new regulations? Incorporate a cyber security mindset across all aspects of business operations and functions? Become more resilient to attacks? Before a strategy can begin to take shape, you need to know what you’re working towards.
Identify your assets to establish cyber security priorities
The first part of this step is putting together a comprehensive list of the organization’s most important databases, networks, applications and any other assets. What are they? Where are they? What is currently protecting them? What are they connected to?
The second part of this step involves completing a nerve-wracking exercise, but it’s something that needs to be done over and over again if you’re going to have a solid cyber security strategy: assess your organization from the attacker point of view. Of all those assets in the list, what are most attractive to potential attackers? What could inflict the most damage to your organization if it were compromised? What would interrupt the largest number of business processes? Look at this from every possible angle, from the profit-driven hacker to the attackers hired by underhanded competitors to politically-motivated hacktivists – which of your assets are the biggest targets? These are your cyber security priorities.
Determine where you’re vulnerable
This is where you once again need to get proactive. Hacking simulation, penetration testing and other offensive-minded approaches are necessary to find your organization’s weak spots and vulnerabilities as well as figure out exactly how deep someone could get into your networks, systems and databases if they made it in. This serves to help you:
1) Shore up those vulnerabilities as much as possible and…
2) Put in place monitoring measures that help detect and respond to suspicious activity as quickly as possible – a managed security operation center (SOC) might be the best option for organizations that don’t have a robust in-house SOC.
Make sure you have the right technology and personnel in place
As much as you might hope differently, it isn’t enough to simply invest in the best cyber security technology. Think of it like having an F-35 in your driveway. It’s a marvel of technology, but what good is it going to do if you don’t have a pilot to operate it? What your organization needs is a combination of the right technology, processes and the people who have the skills to orchestrate it.
To get the right cyber security team in place you need to consider your organization’s objectives as well as priorities and vulnerabilities. The team you need could include security engineers and architects, analysts, incident responders, ethical hackers, pen testers, forensic experts, auditors and a chief information security officer, to name a few possible positions, and all these employees need to be able to operate at a high enough level to deal with the threats your organization is facing. If it isn’t possible to staff an in-house team at the level your organization requires, it may once again be time to consider a managed cyber security solution.
Whether you’ve got an in-house team or a managed solution, you then need to ensure you’re working with the right vendors to arm your team with the technology they need to keep your assets protected, otherwise you’ll have the stealth fighter pilot but no F-35.
Assess the overall organization’s cybersecurity awareness
You can have the right cyber security people combined with the highest rated technology and the ideal offensive-minded approach to cyber security for a top-notch security operation center, but it won’t matter if your overall organization is not educated on cyber security threats.
From malware, spear phishing attacks to weak passwords and mishandled credentials, the current cyber security landscape is rife with attackers who know that organizational cyber security awareness and education is lacking and know exactly how to capitalize. From top to bottom, your employees need to be educated on the threats that exist, trained on what they must do to protect your organization, and the potential consequences to the organization if they don’t.
No one said developing and following a cyber security strategy would be easy, but when done well, it’s one of the most worthwhile investments of time, effort and money an organization can and should make.
The threats aren’t going to let up and in fact will only grow in size, scale and sophistication. With a proactive cyber security strategy, you can stay one step ahead of even the most talented attackers, and one step ahead is the only place you want your organization to be.