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What is a cybersecurity posture, and how can you improve it?

What is a cybersecurity posture, and how can you improve it?

What is a cybersecurity posture, and how can you improve it?

To be successful as a modern-day business, having a robust cybersecurity posture in place is crucial. As today’s threat landscape becomes more and more complex – with cyber threats and data breaches on the rise – the need for innovative technological solutions, coupled with a greater understanding of your company’s environment and assets increases. 

But do we mean when we say ‘cybersecurity posture?’ And how do we know what needs to be protected and how? In this article, we define the term cybersecurity posture, delve into the details of the techniques and tactics employed to provide enduring cybersecurity protection, and discover what you and your team need to know to keep your company safe. 

What is a cybersecurity posture?

Cybersecurity posture refers to the overall state of your company’s cybersecurity. This encompasses many different elements, including the following: 

  • The visibility of your security environment and asset inventory
  • Any frameworks used for threat modeling
  • The processes and technologies in place to detect, manage, respond to and recover from incidents
  • An incident response plan that standardizes these processes and technologies
  • The overall level of cybersecurity training throughout the team and clarity of assigned roles
  • The efficacy of third-party providers and the level of trust and understanding between the third party and your company 

Essentially, your company’s security posture is influenced by three key pillars of cybersecurity: technology, organization, and human behavior.

Where should I start?

The first step is to take stock of your company’s current cybersecurity risk and overall security posture while gaining a better understanding of what is needed to make progress towards your cybersecurity goals.

Cybersecurity frameworks such as that of the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) are excellent guidelines to follow, as they demonstrate that cybersecurity posture is a spectrum, not a right/wrong binary concept. Working out a company’s security posture can be a complex task and following a framework can guide you in taking the first steps to assess where you are and how to improve your cybersecurity posture. 

Here’s an example of the various levels of cybersecurity posture that companies could fall into: 

Level 1 – Partial protection

Companies with little or no dedicated staff, budget, or resources fall into this category. This tier governs those with zero or very little cybersecurity protection. Many companies will need to start from this point to build protection. 

Level 2 – Risk-informed but lacks capacity

Businesses in this tier may have some understanding of the risks out there and are taking some steps to protect themselves. However, they won’t be comprehensively addressing all of the vulnerabilities contained within their networks or infrastructure. Often, businesses here may have a basic understanding of their needs but not the capacity to respond to them effectively.

Level 3 – Robust protection but lacks adaptability 

The companies in Tier 3 will have best practices in place and organizational oversight to manage their cybersecurity responses. They may also spend more time communicating and collaborating with other companies to keep abreast of contemporary cyber threats and to ensure best practice alignment. 

Level 4 – Strong protection that adapts and evolves

Businesses in this tier will maintain advanced and complex cybersecurity practices. They will be able to continually assess and evaluate the risk landscape and the status of their security, as well as adapt their responses based on information gleaned from attempted threats or industry intelligence. 

Where do you fall, and how do you reach the next tier?

Companies in each tier need to utilize the same controls to keep safe. These include, but are not limited to:

  1. Comprehensive policies and documentation governing security protocols
  2. Security tools like firewalls and antivirus software
  3. Programs to monitor and alert you to breaches in your defenses 
  4. Procedures in place to prevent infiltration and data loss
  5. Vulnerability management programs
  6. Employee cybersecurity training
  7. Endpoint protection and protocols for new endpoint security

What does a good cybersecurity posture look like?

A company with a good cybersecurity posture may look something like this.

  • The security program is led by clear and expert-assisted goals, and the objectives for higher security are continually being set and met 
  • Existing security measures are continually assessed and the security team can adapt to them based on intelligence from the wider network
  • Security training is scheduled and appraised as part of the organization’s regular functioning, and procedures are in place to onboard employees and new endpoints 
  • Software is up to date, correctly configured, and monitored 
  • The team conducts regular tests of their defenses to identify vulnerabilities
  • Regular risk assessments are carried out 

Remember, the best practices are behavioral, not technological. If you’re not able to ramp up your security operations significantly due to a lack of resources, staff, or financial support, you can take steps today to improve your position by building in procedures and protocols to govern who is responsible for what area, and by developing some key tenets in your strategy to improve your online safety. If you’re already further along the spectrum, consider employing more resources dedicated to establishing what security controls suits your organization, and how to implement it into daily operations.

Most importantly, having a good security posture means that you and the rest of the security team feel supported, not embattled: you shouldn’t be suffering from alert fatigue, burnout, or struggling to keep up with demand. The best cybersecurity is adaptable, replicable, and scalable, meaning that you can keep up with the demands and challenges of an ever-evolving security environment. 

How can I improve my cybersecurity posture? 

Employee cybersecurity training

It’s always good practice to require all employees to use a password manager. An estimated 300 billion passwords are used by humans and machines worldwide. A password manager is key for generating, managing, and storing passwords and other credentials, without requiring employees to waste time with extensive notes. It also reduces the risk of passwords being written down and acquired by criminals. 

Ensuring employees use different passwords at home and at work to reduce risk. Using the same password in and outside of work risks your company being compromised because of poor cybersecurity practices that are unrelated to your cybersecurity infrastructure.

Make education about phishing and how to spot it a priority. In 2021, nearly 40 percent of breaches featured phishing, the most common form of attack by far. You can even regularly test employees by sending them fake phishing emails to continually assess their preparation for an attack.

Inventory security controls and developing policies

Firstly, you need to build an inventory of all hardware and software, create a comprehensive list of IT assets, and assess what risks may target each asset. For example: 

  • Identify all the points that may allow an attacker to gain access to your information infrastructure
  • Pinpoint the unknown devices or IP addresses in your business
  • Secure configurations for network devices
  • Ensure security tools such as firewalls are properly implemented and updated
  • Implement measures to monitor your cyber security posture in real time. You might want to consider using automated services to help develop a wall around your business that can alert you immediately to a breach

Establish intelligence-sharing mechanisms

Participating in, and contributing to, the cyber security community allows for threat sharing. Make sure to stay up to date with fast-evolving methods of attack and share information concerning best practices for preventing and responding to attacks with others.

Conduct regular risk assessments 

As the risk landscape changes, you need to continually assess, considering:

  • How critical each asset is to your business infrastructure
  • Any known vulnerabilities
  • Any current threats 
  • Anything with an IP address or URL and any methods to access them should be scanned and cataloged regularly
  • The security posture of any third-party providers or other services used by your company
  • Assess all the above at regular intervals, from employee training to firewall functionality
  • Prepare for the worst: set up log collection to help you recover from an attack quickly and effectively 

A robust cybersecurity posture depends on two things: Intelligence and attention. Intelligence is achieved by staying up to date with the latest threats and keeping abreast of the best technologies to rebut them. Attention involves the continual monitoring and improvement of your defenses will keep you safe from attackers who are constantly seeking to exploit the vulnerabilities in your armor. 

What else should I consider?

When it comes to improving your cybersecurity posture, the first step to take is to carry out a comprehensive assessment of your company, from your asset inventory to the specific vulnerabilities that you face as an organization. At Ackcent, this kind of analysis comes as a standard starting point for our portfolio of services.

Following our initial assessment, we’ll put together a bespoke cybersecurity plan that comprises a specialized blend of techniques and tools tailored to your needs, providing your company with the best possible protection. As part of our MDR services, our plan will also include a Security Operations Center (SOC) – a team of experienced cybersecurity experts dedicated to maintaining and improving your security posture. 

To learn more about the exact nature of SOC and the benefits it could bring to your organization, read our blog post here

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