Using Security Ratings to Benchmark Your Cybersecurity Program

By Kasey Hewitt

Posted on Apr 13, 2020

You’ve invested in cybersecurity, but are you tracking it? Many organizations tend to buy into cybersecurity for the sake of compliance — they know they have to tick the infosec boxes in order to meet certain regulations. Unfortunately that sort of system doesn't work very well.

An effective cybersecurity program isn’t like a burglar alarm; you can’t just set your controls once and forget about them. Instead, your cybersecurity program needs to be regularly measured and monitored to make sure your tools, processes and controls are working, and that you’re staying one step ahead of bad actors — something not all businesses are doing. A report by Thycotic found that 58 percent of the businesses it surveyed failed to adequately measure their cybersecurity performance against best practices.

For your organization to track and improve your cybersecurity program, you should be benchmarking it. Fortunately, security ratings can help you do that.

What are cybersecurity ratings?

Security ratings are a way of measuring your organization’s security performance. Ratings grade your organization by how well it protects data.

It may help to think of cybersecurity ratings as a digital cousin to financial credit ratings: consumer credit reporting agencies review a company's financial information, then assign a credit score by deciding how well the company can protect its financial assets. A security ratings organization does the same, reviewing a company's security posture and assigning a security score by evaluating whether the company can protect its data assets from cyber attacks.

As with a credit score, ratings are often delivered in a simplified format. Rather than handing an organization a list of complex metrics, a security ratings organization will often assign a number or a letter, so an organization can see, at a glance, how their security program is doing. SecurityScorecard, for example, uses an A-F rating system. It’s easy to read, but that letter encompasses an organization’s cyberhealth across 10 groups of risk factors, from patching cadence to hacker chatter.

How security ratings help benchmark your security program

Why use security ratings to benchmark your security program when there are other metrics you might use? There are several reasons ratings may make the most sense for your company.

  1. Choosing the right KPIs can be tricky: If you Google “security metrics,” you’ll be inundated with a list of must-track metrics. This can be overwhelming, especially if you’re not the head of a security team. If you’re a small business owner, or simply need to know what your security posture is without wading through a lot of metrics, a security rating may be the way to go. (If you want to get deeper into your score, a good risk rating company will be able to give you that information.)
  2. You need to know where the holes in your security are: Not happy with your score? A good ratings company will tell you exactly why your organization got the score it did, and exactly what you need to do to raise it.
  3. You’re tracking your remediation efforts: As you complete your remediations, you will be able to see your security rating improving.
  4. As soon as you fall out of compliance, a ratings company will let you know: If your score takes a dip, your ratings company will let you know as soon as your rating takes the hit, and you’ll get a remediation plan that will help you shore up your security program.
  5. You have to talk to the C-suite: Cybersecurity ratings make it easy for you to talk to nontechnical colleagues about security, especially to leadership. Rather than presenting leaders with a tangle of numbers, present them with one easy-to-read score. The advantage of doing this is that a single score means you’ll spend your time talking about security rather than explaining all your metrics.
  6. You want to track your competitors: Ratings let you look at your competitors’ security scores, compare them to your own, and shore up your score so that you’re as secure as the competition.
  7. You’re managing a large third party security program: If you’re working with lots of vendors and you don’t have time to track several metrics for each, using ratings can help your organization see, quickly, which vendors are compliant and which are not.

How SecurityScorecard can help

SecurityScorecard Ratings allow you and your organization’s business stakeholders to continuously monitor the most important cybersecurity KPIs for your company and your third parties. The software automatically generates a recommended action plan when any issues are discovered and clearly shows your historical data.

By monitoring the cyberhealth of your extended enterprise, you’ll be able to collect data on your cybersecurity efforts and make informed security decisions in the future.

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