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Mitigating Your Cyber Security Risks

Cyber security issues have been elevated up to C-level executives. They are concerned about cost, reputation damage, loss of business, and liabilities. You budget for cyber security, and staff appropriately. You may even have purchased cyber security insurance. You try to demonstrate that your cyber security investment is successful. Did you do enough?

By the Book

I recently read some excerpts from the book, "The Cyber Risk Handbook: Creating and Measuring Effective Cybersecurity Capabilities" by Domenic Antonucci, which drove me to think about how enterprises can prepare and be successful with cyber security. Here are some of my thoughts and observations on the matter.

Managing Cyber Security Risk

When you manage something, you want to be able to measure its performance. This leads to successful decisions and proper allocation of resources. When it comes to cyber security, however, measuring performance is rather difficult.

Cyber threats escalate rapidly, with new threats constantly being introduced. Because cyber threats are progressing in size and sophistication, you should not depend on past experience and instincts to make future decisions.

Thinking through Cyber Security

Cyber security must be part of your business strategy, and should not be treated as an add-on or afterthought. There are many pitfalls that will be encountered as you create and implement your cyber security strategy. To avoid these, there are four components that must be given particular consideration when creating a cyber security strategy:

  1. Determine the business risks if security is breached. Do not make assumptions. Investigate every component that could jeopardize the security of your organization -- physical, network, applications, staff, contractors, and suppliers.
  2. Determine and implement a set of capabilities that will help protect you. This can be more than money in the budget. It also involves business practices, employee training, and performing periodic audits.
  3. Consider where you want to be when you finish your implementation. Do not assume that your implementation will be perfect. You need to keep going back and re-examining your implementation to ensure it's still working successfully.
  4. Identify which initiatives you need to take in order to get to that target condition. This includes not only the CIO, but all the other business units and their C-level management. It is not good enough to get your budget approved. You need buy-in from all of those who could be affected by cyber security breaches. You also need to keep this buy-in going rather than allowing some individuals to assume everything is okay and move on to other matters. Cyber security is a moving target; therefore you are never really done.

Creating Digital Resilience

You will be attacked. But with a good cyber security posture, you may be able to prevent most of these attacks and block them. Some of them, however, will get through. Did you know that the average amount of time it takes to discover a security breaches is now 99 days? And that's an improvement -- it used to be over 140 days. During these 99 days, you can be attacked and not know it.

Antonucci's book presents seven hallmarks of digital resilience that need to be considered:

  1. You have many business assets, each with varying levels of importance. Prioritize your information assets relative to the need for protection.
  2. The amount of protection you implement should be based on the value of those assets. You need to align the agreed-upon level of protection for those assets, such as applying encryption and multifactor authentication. You do not want your protective measures to hinder your user's productivity.
  3. C-level managers look at enterprise-wide risk management and government processes. Enterprises will encounter other kinds of risks besides cyber security. Cyber attacks must be integrated into the overall risk analysis so it can be presented at C-level meetings to gain support.
  4. Get the frontline personnel to buy into the security implementations. Over 55% of security breaches are due to a user performing negligent, malicious, or mistaken actions that links to malware or delivers stolen credentials to attackers. Do not assume that the users will automatically consider security to be an important part of their job function.
  5. Technology is part of the solution. You need to understand that cyber security is more than a network problem. It is also an application problem. Therefore the application development practices and policies should be reevaluated as well as the hardware used to implement those practices and policies.
  6. You will deploy active defenses. You need to produce an environment and set of procedures for analyzing the relevant information into defense capabilities. You may also want to subscribe to security as a service, or perhaps retain outside contractors who do this constantly as a business, especially if you cannot develop your internal security staff.
  7. Don't assume that which is implemented still works. Test and retest. Employ a contractor to attack your business. Test your security response team's operations.

You want the highest level security possible, but you are constrained by the budget, staff, and other resources available to you. To produce the best digital resilience, you need not only the budget, but a staff with experience.

Other blogs on this topic that may be of interest include, "Security Protection, Better than Security Correction," "Hunting for Security Threats," "Cybersecurity Expert Shortage Still Looms," and "How Security-Conscious Are Your Users?"