Everything that can be hacked will be hacked, or at least someone will try. Over the past few years, we have seen massive data breaches where hackers have stolen petabytes of confidential and often personal data from companies that customers and the public entrusted them with.
The problem is that most companies are reactive and not proactive. They usually react after the damage has been done and by the time they know their security has been breached, there is little they can do to minimize the damage.
Why not be proactive instead? Being proactive assumes that everything that can be hacked will be hacked and involves putting measures in place to ensure this does not happen, or at the very least minimize the chances of it happening.
The Foundation of a Secure System
Laying the foundation for a sound security strategy entails:
Understanding what you have to protect – Start by having a list of every hackable asset your company has.
If you have a large organization, start with the crucial systems and work your way down.
A good place for businesses to start is by finding out what systems make them money or help them run their businesses.
These are vital systems that could derail a business if they ever got hacked. These have to be the first ones to be secured.
Complying with legal requirements – Getting sued over a data breach could cause your company millions or even billions.
Therefore, ensure that you are in legal compliance vis a vis securing systems that hold sensitive user and company data.
Gauging your risk appetite. Risk appetite is the amount of liability a company is ready to absorb.
If your company has a low appetite for risk, you should plan and deploy your security systems in a way that minimizes liability as much as possible.
Understand Where Your Threats Could Come From
Analyzing the risk landscape is the next step in building your strategy. Start by understanding the environment your organization operates in. Once you know this, you want to look at your competitors.
If people in the same industry and space as you have been hacked, there is a chance that you could be next.
Try as much as possible to find out how they deploy their security systems and eliminate or tighten up any areas that overlap.
It is also a good idea to assess whether there is any reason anyone would want to attack you or your business. These reasons could include:
- Financial gain
- Political vendetta
Coming Up with a Cybersecurity Strategy
At this point, you should know what your vulnerabilities are and which areas the attacks are likely to come from. Start by picking a framework for the deployment of your strategy. CIS controls, for example:
- provide you with the actions that you need to prioritize when securing your systems and
- The order to follow when implementing these steps
Following such a framework gives you a clear idea of what has been secured, what has not, what needs to be done when and the state system’s security.
Companies Must Also Have a Risk-management Mindset.
Everything companies do in the deployment of their security systems must be done from a risk-management point of view.
That is why a deployment framework is so important; if everything on the recommendation list is done right, there is little risk of an attack.
When trying to minimize risk, there are a few questions you must answer.
- What is your company’s security maturity level? How well does your company adhere to security best practices? Answering this question will help you identify areas of improvement. A repeatable process works best because you need to carry out this assessment in the future and you need to have the original results to compare against the new ones.
- What technology stacks have we deployed? Every single software or hardware on your stack that is underutilized is another hole that attackers can use. If you have such hardware or software, consider getting rid of it or getting an alternative.
- Where can I get quick wins? Foundational areas and vulnerabilities that you can fix quickly are the best places to start. Remember that if you can find these holes and vulnerabilities in a few minutes or hours so can hackers. Layout a plan of action, identifying what issues you can solve immediately and progress down the list as the vulnerabilities get harder to identify and fix.
Execute the Plan
After coming up with the plan, it is time to execute it. But before you do, can your organization effectively execute the plan? Do you have the right people in place to ensure everything in your plan is done right? To answer these questions, you may have to go through the resumes of everyone on your team, identifying their IT and other skills.
If anyone in your team has a Master of Computer Science Degree from a reputable institution like Wilfrid Laurier University – click here to learn all about it – they probably already have the skills and knowledge required.
It is also important to assess whether your team can improve on this strategy and carry it out in the future. Some other questions to ponder include:
- Will there be significant changes in your organization like a merger or acquisition? Remember that if you acquire a company, you acquire its IT and cyber systems too. If they have not hardened their systems, you may be acquiring their cyber vulnerabilities too.
- Can your strategy be done during an upgrade? Sometimes, hardening security systems can lead to other IT issues. If you are doing any software updates soon and do not foresee any serious cyber issues, you can carry out your hardening plan then. After all, if you perform an operating system or other large scale upgrades, the new hardware and software will have to be tested.
Every organization should have a cybersecurity strategy in place. Cyber threats are all around us and it might take just a few hackers to release petabytes of your company’s data on the internet. Come up with a strategy and start patching any vulnerabilities now!