How To Build and Optimize Your Cybersecurity Program
Originally published by Axonius here.
Written by Ronald Eddings, Axonius.
Digital transformation has been a shock to the system for security teams — the attack landscape is ever-evolving, and organizations are constantly using new tech. From a security perspective, it can be hard to keep up.
When building and optimizing your security program, your goal should always be to create a proactive environment where the people, processes, and technologies are equipped to identify, analyze, and respond to current and emerging cyber threats. In this post, I’ll share concrete steps you can take and important things to consider to formulate, implement, and improve an effective cybersecurity program at your organization.
Building A Cybersecurity Program
Whether you’re just getting started or already have a program, your focus should be on identifying business requirements, business risks, and assessing critical assets. At each organization, cybersecurity programs will vary based on business requirements and your technology stack.
Here are a few steps that should be considered when building your security program:
- Build a relationship with your stakeholders. These are the key members at your organization that will be overseeing or providing feedback while building your security program. While building a relationship with your stakeholders, you’ll want to begin by collecting security and business requirements.
- Build an asset inventory of all of your digital assets. This includes laptops, servers, IoT devices, and SaaS applications. This step is critical to understand your environment and to collect details on the most critical assets in your environment.
- Assess the capabilities of your technology stack and security controls and enable the features that will help protect your organization.
- Build documentation and keep automation in mind. As your program matures, you’ll want to reduce the repetitive work from your team members so they can progress their skills.
- Create a plan for security awareness. Security should not be created and enforced in a vacuum. The members within your organization are your first line of defense and should have a process for reporting security concerns and issues.
Roadmap to a Mature Cybersecurity Program
It’s no secret that building a cybersecurity program takes time and money. It’s also no secret that building a program isn’t going to happen overnight — but instead will mature over time. To reach an optimal maturity level, you must first understand your organization's culture, the business domain, and the capabilities of your technology stack and personnel.
There are many frameworks for maturing your security program. In this post, we’ll use Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) as a reference. This framework includes a roadmap for maturing your cybersecurity program and breaks it down into a few levels. Let’s focus on levels 1 through 3.
- Level 1 is the first step of maturing your cybersecurity program. At this level, organizations don’t have well-documented processes or procedures, and instead are likely to be focused on gaining an inventory of assets, protections, and permissions, and finding ways to create safeguards for critical assets.
- At level 2, your organization has begun using the inventory of assets, protections, and permissions and has created documentation around the processes and policies for those resources. At this level, your organization is able to trace back actions made on assets to a specific user and has the tools necessary to investigate suspicious activity.
- At level 3, your organization can say with a great degree of certainty that they’re practicing exceptional security hygiene. This means having a detailed plan that includes missions, goals, project plans, resourcing, required training, and involvement of relevant stakeholders.
Optimizing Your Security Program
When using CMMC as a guide, organizations should strive to reach level 3 maturity or greater. To reach that level, your security program will have to be under a constant state of optimization.
In today’s digital world, there are a few requirements that can’t be missed when optimizing your security program:
- Define key roles and responsibilities
- Incorporate adaptable tools and technologies
- Attract and retain talent
- Build an infrastructure that supports remote collaboration
Defining Roles and Responsibilities
Satisfying this requirement will lead to a reduction in response time and security incidents. That’s because team members will have an understanding for how to support each other and hold team members accountable.
Imagine being invited to a security incident to identify details about an affected asset that you had no idea existed and that has no documentation. Collaboration is a necessity — and great collaboration begins with leadership defining roles and responsibilities.
Incorporate Adaptable Technologies
Incorporating adaptable technologies is investing in the right security solutions for your organization. Solutions that will:
- Reduce the time it takes to investigate
- Reduce the opportunity for human error
- Reduce manual and repetitive actions by team members
Each organization is unique, but a few technology solutions that any organization can benefit from are:
- An asset inventory solution to keep an always up-to-date inventory of all the digital assets, whether they’re remote or on-premise
- Encryption hardware or software to protect your assets in the case of physical or digital theft
- Multi-factor authentication solution to reduce the risk of stolen credentials being used by attackers
Attract and Retain Talent
It’s unlikely that a security strategy or solution will be created to stop all the threats and identify all suspicious activity — which is why attracting and retaining talent is essential. To attract and retain talent, team members must have the opportunity to develop new skills, receive mentorship, and provide mentorship. A collaborative cybersecurity team will assist with building a cybersecurity program and reduce the amount of time it takes to respond to security alerts and incidents.
It's essential to build and optimize a cybersecurity program that's going to enable your organization and team members to innovate freely. A successful cybersecurity program is built by a proactive organization where all team members serve as the first line of defense.
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