8 Steps Forward To Becoming A Cyber Secure Organization

Cybersecurity threats are exploiting the increased complexity and connectivity of critical infrastructure systems, placing organizational security at risk. Similar to financial and reputational risks, cybersecurity risk affects your bottom line, driving up costs and affecting revenue. It can harm your ability to innovate, gain and maintain customers. Cybersecurity needs to be an important and growing component of your overall risk management. Therefore, an effective cybersecurity program is best achieved through people, processes, and technology.  There are several characteristics that can help you to mitigate risk for your organization. Here are 8 tips to consider:

1: Executive Buy-In 

Winning organizations have top-level support from senior leaders that understand the importance of cybersecurity, integrate cybersecurity risks with other business risks, and identify a champion for their program.  

  1. Accountability

It’s important to identify a leader for your cybersecurity program and document their role and responsibilities in writing. Your cyber champion should have the authority, responsibility, and resources to manage the cybersecurity program. Organizations with fragmented or unclear lines of authority oftentimes result in destructive power struggles and ad hoc, chaotic behavior.

3: Analyze and Document

Another best practice is to conduct a business impact analysis. As part of the analysis and documentation steps, a key element is to establish a data classification guide.  A cyber driven organization is focused on protecting organizational assets. It is essential to begin with documenting business functions and their requirements for system availability and data protection.  

4: Determine Threats   

Do you know where your risk lies – internally and externally? What gaps may exist which may disrupt your operations, steal or compromise your data, or allow exposure to potential structural and natural disasters. 

5: Plan and Devise

Another area of consideration is to develop a risk management plan. Once you have decided on a plan, it’s important to choose a framework for risk management.  Having documented your requirements, data sensitivity, and threats you can formulate a risk management plan that will detail how to identify, characterize, and handle risks. Next, selecting a cybersecurity framework that best represents your organizational needs will be. A good reference point is the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 27000, NIST 800-171,

6: Alignment

A key to a successful cybersecurity program is alignment. Your cybersecurity leadership should ensure plans and policies align with the enterprise risk and compliance framework. Drafting a System Security Plan (SSP) that addresses requirements for your IT systems and incorporates elements contained in the compliance framework. The SSP should be reviewed at least annually and approved by leadership. Ongoing, policies must be monitored and upheld.

7: Assess

The next consideration is the need to conduct a gap assessment and document plans of action and milestones (POA&M). It’s important to follow the SMART goal approach, ensuring your action and milestones are specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and timely. A gap assessment should be conducted using the prescribed framework, including technical testing (scans and pen testing) to validate that the policies are being implemented. Technological, personnel, and procedural gaps should be handled as risks, which should then be appropriately detailed and described in a risk document. The organization should then develop a POA&M to manage risks in alignment with the risk management plan. Progress reviews for POA&Ms should be tracked and discussed at regular risk management meetings.

8: Monitor

New threats and vulnerabilities occur every day, so it is necessary to continually monitor your organization for out-of-date software, poor configuration settings, abnormal devices or disgruntled, new and untrained staff. Maintaining and monitoring your network can be achieved internally by building out your own security operations center, or to contract with a managed security service provider (MSSP) that can give you constant monitoring for vulnerabilities and intrusions. 

Working through these eight tips will help to get your organization on it’s way to being a security forward organization which is good for you, your employees, your customers and vendors alike. The key takeaway is that your cybersecurity program is a living program which will require constant review and revision to keep up with the rapidly changing environment. If you are looking for assistance to become a security forward organization, contact us to start discussions.