We live in a digital world in which a plethora of personal and professional data is uploaded from devices into a maze of interconnected networks all the time. Although digitization has made data processing and data access easier than ever, security is a serious problem. For organizations processing user data, there are new regulations about data security and privacy that, if not followed, lead to hefty penalties. According to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation’s website, the fines for noncompliance with the 2018 data privacy and security law totaled $63 million after just one year.
Digitization has also led to the expansion of the corporate threat landscape. Security incidents such as unauthorized access, malware attacks, zero-day attacks, data breaches, social engineering and phishing happen every day. These security incidents jeopardize an organization's reputation and operations — and have far-reaching repercussions on employee confidence, competitive standing, customer trust and organizational revenue. According to an IBM Security report, the average breach costs companies $3.86 million.
An effective cybersecurity program provides the systematic processes to identify, assess and respond to cyber risks quickly and cost-effectively. It helps establish clear communications and situational awareness about cyber threats at all levels across the organizational hierarchy. It also creates a foundation for well-informed risk management decisions aligned to the organization's business objectives. Here are four steps to creating a robust cybersecurity strategy.
Step 1: Identify your threat landscape. This is something that will vary by business. To determine your unique threat landscape, analyze
- the environment in which your company operates, what it does and who your customers are
- your competition and the kind of threats they combat or plan to combat
- the kind of data cybercriminals would be interested in stealing from you
- your corporate culture, goals and business objectives.
Then, create a thorough list of potential adverse events that you must be ready to combat at any time of the day. As attacks are becoming more sophisticated and continue to increase exponentially, it is important to secure your ecosystem by minimizing the amount of surface area that attackers can attempt to compromise.
Step 2: Identify what you need to protect. A cybersecurity breach doesn't always bring the entire business to a standstill. Some breaches are focused on one or more business processes, some of which are more critical than others. On the other hand, a cybersecurity incident might not even have an operational impact at all, but it could have a legal one. Therefore, thorough protection of your enterprise data at each level is essential.
Start from the bottom of the pyramid by understanding the devices, servers and functions each business unit relies on; then, work your way up to the enterprise-level infrastructure and systems. In addition, be sure to identify and assess all of your digital assets, including archived data and intellectual property.
Once you have identified what you need to safeguard, classify these assets as either ones that must be protected to ensure smooth operations or ones that must be protected for legal and compliances reasons. Then, list the potential threats that could affect these assets and each threat’s potential impacts on your business.
Step 3: Analyze where you stand. Analyzing your enterprise's current risk management capabilities will give you a deeper understanding of the ground you need to cover to reach a defensible state regarding cybersecurity. Start with a thorough assessment of your information technology (IT) assets, and find out the vulnerabilities within the access points in your networks. Also evaluate your organization’s human firewall, as well as the employees, security administrators and third-party vendors who can potentially compromise your organization’s security, either intentionally or accidentally.
With this information in hand, make your plan. Consider selecting a cybersecurity framework to define your enterprise strategy, identify actions in the order of priority and track your progress to give your enterprise full coverage. Then, create a timeline for creating and implementing your cybersecurity strategy, taking into consideration the vulnerability of your entire ecosystem.
Step 4: Test the efficiency of your strategy. The last but the most critical step of defining any cybersecurity strategy is to test the efficiency of the plan you’ve put in place. Identify the kind of damage cybercriminals can cause if they get access to your network, devices or servers. Scan and remediate vulnerabilities, and, where possible, conduct penetration tests on all surface areas that could be potential entry points for cybercriminals. Evaluate whether your current IT and security teams have the skillset and bandwidth required to manage security at scale. If you don’t have the right resources, consider upskilling, hiring or outsourcing.
The power of training
Frequent training must be part of any cybersecurity strategy. Each employee in the organization, from the CEO to the most recent hire, must be aware of the corporate security policy, the threat landscape, and his or her role in helping the enterprise safely and securely continue conducting business. Remember, your cybersecurity supply chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Make sure your entire team is trained and at the ready to guard against or battle cybersecurity attacks.