Learning Center May 3, 2021

How to Perform an Information Security Gap Analysis

by Phoebe Fasulo
by Phoebe Fasulo

The cyber threat landscape is ever-evolving, and the security controls that worked for your organization yesterday may no longer be sufficient today. Cyberattacks happen every second, and a security breach can result in the loss of clients’ confidential information, potentially leading to financial penalties and a damaged reputation.

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What is an information security gap analysis?

Information security gap analysis, also called IT security gap analysis, refers to an in-depth review that helps organizations determine the difference between the current state of their information security to specific industry requirements. When you conduct a security gap analysis you understand the status of your cybersecurity risks and vulnerabilities in your organization so you can work to close those gaps in your security.

Why is an IT security gap analysis important?

An information security gap analysis allows organizations to identify areas of weakness within their network security controls to ensure that the network is robust and effective. The security gap analysis shows you what you should be doing by comparing your actual practices against industry best practices and offers insight into how your organization can put the correct structure and controls in place. You can reap a lot of benefits from performing an information security gap analysis, but only when it’s being done correctly.

What are the main causes of cyber security gaps?

A cyber security gap can have many causes. In general, it is a lack of awareness about an organization’s internal controls that can lead to these gaps. Notable security gaps include weak credentials, insider threats, outdated software, and malware. Thankfully, by building up awareness, you can reduce these gaps and lessen the chance of a data breach.

4 Steps for conducting an information security gap analysis

To ensure that you can effectively identify the security risks and vulnerabilities in your organization, it is important to correctly conduct a gap analysis. Here are the four steps that are necessary for every information security gap analysis:

1. Select an industry-standard security framework

By selecting an industry-standard security framework, you will have the baseline best practices that you can measure and compare against your own security program. One of the most common frameworks is the ISO/IEC – 27002 standard. This particular framework provides best practices on information security management, covering key security areas such as assessment, access control, physical security, change management, and more.

The ISO standard provides a great framework to compare your security policies and network controls against. However, it’s usually recommended to leverage cybersecurity platforms to evaluate your security plan and ensure that security measures are compliant with industry regulations. The reason being is that cybersecurity platforms have automated tools that can often catch gaps that are not found by people who are with the network on a daily basis.

When you select a cybersecurity platform to carry out an information security assessment for your organization, it typically gathers data on your IT infrastructure, organizational charts, application inventory, policies and processes, and other relevant details. In doing so, it will be able to identify and show you which security policies are already in place, which outdated policies to replace, and what areas to implement them.

2. Evaluate your staff and processes

Many of the risks associated with security breaches are caused by human intervention, such as an employee unknowingly clicking on a phishing email.

Here are some of the typical questions that organizations should ask your key staff members:

  • Do you provide staff training to keep your organization up to date on evolving security threats?
  • Are there standard procedures and approvals required before a change is implemented? More importantly, is there a back-out procedure in case you run into a problem?
  • How do you handle access for new hires and terminations?

When you know exactly how people are accessing your organization’s network and the existing security controls that are in place, the easier it will be for you to execute the right information security analysis.

3. Gather data

The goal of data gathering is to understand how effective your existing security program is operating within the technical architecture. During this step, your organizational controls are being compared to best practice standards (like ISO 27002 and NIST 800-53) and relevant requirements. This allows you to see how your security process matches up to other processes that are proven to be successful. To uncover gaps and vulnerabilities within your organization, take a sample of network devices, servers, and applications. Data gathering will help provide a holistic picture of your technical environment, the security measures that are in place, and your overall security effectiveness.

4. Analyze your security program

The last step is to perform a detailed analysis of your security program. If you choose to work with a cybersecurity platform, it automatically can correlate the findings across all factors to create your IT security profile that includes strengths and areas of weakness where improvements are needed. With that information, the platform can make recommendations for a security plan that is right for your company. The robust security plan should consider cyber risks, staffing, budget requirements, and timeframes to complete security improvements.

What is the difference between a gap analysis and risk assessment?

A gap analysis provides an overview of your current security operations and points out weaknesses when compared to industry standards. On the other hand, risk assessments analyze what could happen and what should be implemented in order to defend against cyber threats.

How SecurityScorecard can help you perform an information security gap analysis

By leveraging cybersecurity questionnaires, your organization’s IT security team can effectively evaluate the strength of its security program. SecurityScorecard’s Security Questionnaires can help you cut your questionnaire cycle in half by providing automated cloud-based questionnaires in a secure and centralized platform. In doing so, you can more easily and efficiently identify gaps in security both for your organizations and third-party vendors.

Additionally, the platform’s Security Ratings enable your organization to be more resilient and continuously monitor the overall health of the IT environment. When the insights gathered from Security Questionnaires and Security Ratings, you’ll gain complete visibility into the cybersecurity of your entire IT ecosystem, allowing you to stay better prepared for any future cyberattacks.

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Information security gap analysis FAQs

What is a gap assessment in cyber security?

A gap assessment is an internal review process that allows an organization to identify existing weaknesses or vulnerabilities.

How do you perform an information security gap analysis?

There are four steps in an information security gap analysis:

  1. Select a framework
  2. Evaluate processes and staff
  3. Gather data
  4. Security program analysis

What is a security gap in cyber security?

A security gap is a vulnerability that exists within your organization’s information security program that malicious actors can take advantage of.

What is an example of an information security gap?

One example of an information security gap is if a third-party vendor is given access to confidential data, which then introduces additional risk to an organization’s customers.