Considerations for a Successful Continuous Security Monitoring Strategy

By Jeff Aldorisio

Posted on Sep 10, 2020

When implementing digital solutions, organizations often increase their network complexity and widen their potential attack surface. The evolving cyber threat landscape coupled with the growing cybersecurity skills gap highlights the importance of having security solutions that are able to monitor and mitigate threats across these growingly complex business networks. One way to achieve this is by creating a continuous security monitoring strategy.

Continuous security monitoring (CSM) tools automate threat detection, providing organizations with real-time updates on their security posture. CSM tools also leverage threat intelligence so that organizations can stay protected from existing and emerging threats. In digital business environments, this is essential as it allows organizations to innovate without compromising security.

Why is continuous security monitoring important?

In modern business environments, organizations of all sizes rely on technology to carry out their day-to-day operations. As a result, companies have a greater number of devices on their networks than ever before. Without effective security programs in place, organizations have little visibility into network operations, opening the door to higher levels of cyber risk.

The growth of remote work and increased dependence on third-party vendors has introduced new security risks as well. The large number of employees now working from home raises concerns about data security as it decentralizes network operations, creating network gaps. The same can be said about third-party vendors. While working with third-parties can help improve operational efficiency, failure to properly manage vendors can expose organizations to compliance and financial risk.

As network ecosystems become more complex, it is important to have security solutions in place that continually monitor for threats. With CSM systems, companies can more effectively identify and respond to threats, limiting the impact of attacks. Not only does this help organizations protect against threats, but it also allows them to monitor security and compliance requirements.

Benefits of continuous security monitoring within an enterprise organization

Continuous security monitoring benefits enterprise organizations in several ways. From an internal standpoint, the visibility gained from CSM solutions provides insight into preventive measures that can be taken to reduce risk. CSMs also help organizations identify misconfigured security controls that can be exploited by cybercriminals to gain access to a network. This helps support ongoing application and device authorization by linking risk management processes with internal systems.

Along with improving the accuracy and efficiency of security controls, continuous security monitoring also aids in vendor management. By providing visibility into vendor ecosystems, CSM platforms help organizations to proactively manage third-party risk. This translates to more effective vendor relationships, as it gives organizations a way to actively resolve third-party security and compliance concerns as they are identified.

Four considerations for developing a successful continuous monitoring strategy

In order for your continuous monitoring strategy to be effective, there are several factors that should be considered. Below are four considerations for developing a successful continuous monitoring strategy:

1. Determine which threats to prioritize

Continuous monitoring is resource-intensive so it is important that you determine which threats to prioritize. This can be done by assigning risk levels to individual threats. When assigning risk levels to threats, ask yourself what the likelihood and impact of a certain attack would be. If a threat has a low likelihood of occurring and does not significantly impact your business operations, then it is a low-risk threat. Conversely, if a threat has a high likelihood of occurring and significantly impacts your business operations, focus your resources there.

As a general rule, systems that handle data that is protected by federal regulation are considered high risk-systems and should be prioritized. This is because the data stored on these systems is highly valuable, making them a consistent target in attacks.

2. Choosing continuous monitoring tools

There are several different tools you can employ to assist with continuous monitoring. Leveraging third-party tools is recommended as it helps ease the workload placed on internal security teams. Regardless of the tool you choose, make sure that it has security information and event management (SIEM) capabilities, as well as governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) capabilities. These are key components of enterprise security and should be supported by the tools you choose.

Examples of continuous monitoring tools you can use include:

  • System configuration management tools: These tools track and monitor changes in software to ensure that software configurations are working correctly and not creating gaps in security.
  • Networking configuration management tools: These tools assess network configurations and networking policies to make sure that they are in line with compliance and security requirements.
  • Authenticated vulnerability scan: An authenticated vulnerability scanning tool probes your operating system’s vulnerabilities. These are useful when trying to determine how well your CSM program is operating.

3. Create a patch schedule

Failing to patch your systems can leave them vulnerable to attacks and expose your organization to cyber risk. By creating a patch schedule, you can ensure that your systems are always up-to-date and protected.

To do so, first take inventory of the hardware and software used across your network ecosystem. After that, assign risk levels to each patch so that you can determine which system updates to prioritize. From there, work with your team to assign individual roles for patch implementation. Finally, make sure that you run patches on test systems before implementing to make sure they don’t create additional security risks once applied.

4. Train employees on cybersecurity best practices

Employees who are cyber aware are more likely to regularly update their systems and applications, bolstering your organization’s overall cybersecurity. Depending on their level of expertise, employees can also help identify potential vulnerabilities within systems. For this reason, it is recommended that you create a program for employee cybersecurity education. Unfortunately, no continuous security monitoring program can be guaranteed as one-hundred percent effective, but with a cyber aware workforce you can make sure low-level threats are properly addressed.

How SecurityScorecard can help you with continuous security monitoring

Without complete visibility into their network environments, it can be difficult for organizations to build a continuous security monitoring program. SecurityScorecard's security ratings give organizations an outside-in view of their IT infrastructure which enables security teams to quickly identify and remediate vulnerabilities. With A-F scoring, businesses can easily monitor the cyberhealth of their internal and vendor network ecosystems across 10 risk factor groups, helping to prioritize threats.

SecurityScorecard also continuously tracks regulatory adherence and detects potential gaps within current security mandates to ensure that organizations and their vendors are always in compliance with relevant regulations. With SecurityScorecard, you gain the insights needed to build continuous security monitoring strategies that enable ongoing security and success.

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