Cybersecurity risks have become a standard feature of doing business in our digital era, with organizations facing potential harm regularly, whether it's an insider threat like the recent Tesla data breach or the rise of malicious QR code phishing campaigns.
And when they aren’t handled properly, threats can compromise your information, disrupt your access to critical resources, and destabilize your operations - so prioritizing protection has never been more important.
So, how can your organization take action to reinforce your virtual armor and hone your resilience?
By proactively applying this rock-solid cybersecurity approach, based on the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) framework.
When you follow this systemic method with clearly outlined and tangible action items, online safety will feel achievable and inevitable. Read on to discover the necessary components of a cybersecurity strategy that transforms your IT from a risky obstacle into an asset.
Introducing the Cybersecurity Framework
Embracing digital tools doesn't have to jeopardize your business's security. With the right approach, it’s possible to leverage the benefits of these resources while keeping your data free from danger.
A comprehensive cybersecurity framework should center around five pivotal functions, which work together to ensure you tackle your security holistically.
With each of these overarching functions, you can break them up into smaller subfunctions that focus on more specific security-related tasks. This structure gives you a carefully plotted path, with each stepping stone contributing to the strategy's overall effectiveness - like small pieces of a giant puzzle.
Before you can take action, you need to identify what you’re actually trying to protect. Once you’ve systematically assessed your particular organization’s digital ecosystem, you can make a more effective plan that addresses your business’s unique challenges.
Identifying your needs and tailoring your strategy requires meticulously evaluating, categorizing, and inventorying your:
Physical devices and systems
Software platforms and applications
External information systems
Resources, such as hardware, devices, data, time, and software
After creating this inventory, you’ll need to look at your assets and rank them in terms of their classification, their importance to your operations, and their overall business value. You also need to establish the roles and responsibilities that your staff will fulfill when it comes to your cybersecurity, as well as any third-party stakeholders like suppliers, customers, or partners.
Once you've got a clear picture of what you're trying to protect, you must proactively identify your organization's potential risks and vulnerabilities, whether it’s disruptive malware, electronic financial theft, fraud, or even an internal threat.
Your strategy should address these specific challenges in your environment, and you can use this information to allocate resources effectively. Ultimately, this will maximize your strategy's impact. If you do encounter a threat, you'll be able to build the appropriate disaster recovery plan to respond swiftly and minimize damage.
Finally, after knowing your risk landscape, all organizational stakeholders must agree on the appropriate risk management processes for your business and work together to establish and manage them.
Supply Chain Risk Management
Your cybersecurity approach needs to extend beyond your immediate internal environment and include the people you regularly connect with outside of your business - whether it’s the people who provide your information systems, components or services.
By employing a meticulous supply chain risk assessment process, your business can assess, identify, and prioritize the suppliers and third-party partners that will be critical to consider in your strategy.
Remember, assessing your suppliers' and third-party partners’ cybersecurity risk should be ongoing. Your business must routinely evaluate them to ensure they meet their contractual obligations, whether through an audit, test results, or another type of inspection.
It's also critical to conduct response and recovery planning and testing with those suppliers and third-party partners so you can make sure your entire business ecosystem remains resilient and that your business won't suffer due to a disruption somewhere in the chain.
Once you've got the knowledge, it's time to actually put it in motion! Implementing various defense measures will be necessary to prevent a cyber threat from wreaking havoc.
Identity Management and Access Control
Keeping your business's critical systems and sensitive data safe means ensuring that only authorized devices, users, and processes can access them. This involves:
Issuing, managing, verifying (and if necessary, revoking) identities and credentials,
Managing remote access,
Overseeing all permissions and authorizations, incorporating the Zero Trust concept of "least-privileged access" so that only the staff who need a specific data set to carry out their duties access it, and
Implementing tactics such as network segregation and segmentation to protect network integrity.
Awareness and Training
Enhancing your business's security is about more than just introducing new tools. You must foster a workplace culture where employees understand the risks and feel responsible for protecting your data. Regular education and training sessions can also ensure all employees understand cybersecurity best practices and your organization's distinct approach.
In order to have the always-available data needed to keep your critical operations disruption-free, your business needs to establish policies that protect your data while it’s at rest and in transit.
Whether it’s your data, hardware, software, or other valuable resources, creating a formal system for managing assets throughout their entire lifecycle will be crucial - particularly during removal, transfers, and disposition.
You can also enact integrity-checking mechanisms that verify hardware integrity, which proactively addresses vulnerabilities before they lead to serious incidents.
Information Protection Process and Procedures
A truly comprehensive security strategy requires a structured approach to your organization's most valuable asset - your information:
Create and maintain a baseline configuration of your business’s information technology and control systems.
Incorporate organization-wide security principles, like the concept of least functionality, where an entity only receives access to the resources and authorizations necessary to perform its required function.
Conduct, maintain, and regularly test your information backups.
Develop and enforce a policy for data destruction.
Establish, manage, and regularly test your business’s response plans (Incident Response and Business Continuity) and recovery plans (Incident Recovery and Disaster Recovery).
All businesses should implement a system so that when maintaining your organizational assets remotely, you can automatically approve and log any actions to prevent unauthorized access.
The right tools will be crucial for making sure all the elements in your strategy work effectively to mitigate damage - especially when paired with policies to ensure compliance. This includes:
Determining, documenting, implementing, and regularly reviewing your audit and log records.
Protecting communications and control networks.
Protecting and restricting removable media.
It’s reasonable to expect that your organization may face a threat at some time in the near future - especially given that security experts estimate that small businesses experience 43% of all cyberattacks.
Unfortunately, the cost of this for SMBs is high, with some research showing that within six months of getting hacked, 60% of small businesses are forced to close their doors for good and cease operations.
Luckily, if a cyber threat infiltrates your organization, a good detection strategy can help businesses respond rapidly and minimize the damage.
Anomalies and Events
By collecting and correlating event data from multiple sources and sensors, a network trained to recognize familiar activity will quickly notice if there’s any weird behavior that could signal a potential security threat.
Security Continuous Monitoring
By staying vigilant and gaining real-time visibility into what's happening on your network, you can detect potential cybersecurity events, malicious code, or the presence of unauthorized personnel, connections, devices, and software.
Your organization needs to clearly communicate relevant information about event detection, and explain and define your employees’ roles and responsibilities for detection - so they remain accountable and nothing slips through the cracks.
Once you've detected a security incident, your business should already have the resources in place to respond promptly and effectively.
Your business should develop a ready-to-go response plan to execute during or after the incident. A pre-established response plan means your entire team can be better coordinated and prepared to immediately contain and mitigate an incident’s impact.
When it's necessary to respond to a security incident, all personnel should:
Understand the role they play during the response.
Know the steps they must take and in which order.
Report incidents based on pre-established criteria.
Share information and coordinate with stakeholders in a way that follows the guidelines in your response plan.
Your organization should also voluntarily share information with your external stakeholders to inform everyone about potential risks.
Analysis and Improvement
Responding to a security event should go beyond immediate intervention to looking ahead to the future. Once your organization finishes responding to a security incident, take the time to classify the event based on your pre-determined categories from your response plan. And importantly, change your response plan and update your response strategies to incorporate the lessons you’ve learned from the recent incident
After you've contained and neutralized the security threat, you must systemically restore any affected assets to function normally. Like with response planning, this means developing a recovery plan to execute during or after a cybersecurity incident.
You must prioritize managing your public relations, repairing reputational damage, and communicating recovery activities to internal and external stakeholders and executive and management teams.
After the recovery process, look back to see where you could've improved. Then, update your recovery plan and strategies with what you've learned so that you can recover more effectively next time.
We Can Craft You a Robust Defense for a Resilient Tomorrow
Building an organization that can withstand today's threat landscape should be a top priority. If you want to apply this systematic cybersecurity approach but need some help, our experts are here to empower better digital safety for your employees.
At designDATA, our team will work as your partner in online security, implementing our robust cybersecurity solutions that address your unique vulnerabilities. From security assessments, incident response, and disaster recovery plans to security awareness training and regulation compliance, we empower you to navigate your digital operations safely.
Contact us today to create a tailored defense for your organization that guarantees a brighter, more resilient future.