The Importance of Cybersecurity Benchmarks for Organizations

By Kasey Hewitt

Posted on Apr 13, 2020

Did you know that 68 percent of business leaders feel their cybersecurity risks are increasing?

By establishing cybersecurity benchmarks, business leaders give themselves new opportunities to enhance their security programs like never before.

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. Establishing benchmarks allows security teams to evaluate performance against a standard baseline and determine the next steps.

Let’s explore the different types of benchmarking and ways security ratings can help establish cybersecurity benchmarks for your organization.

What is benchmarking in cybersecurity?

Cyber risks are dramatically increasing as companies embrace new technologies and shift to a remote work environment. According to the global benchmarking study, organizations are more likely to see $1 million or more in losses from cyberattacks when their cybersecurity practices do not keep pace with their digital transformation initiatives. Fortunately, benchmarking cybersecurity performance enables companies to adapt, grow, and thrive through industry changes.

Relying on standardized and quantitative measures, like security ratings, is the most effective approach to improve organizations’ cybersecurity programs and protect from cyber threats. Organizations can leverage security ratings to compare their current posture to historical data, industry averages, competitors, and other data sets. When organizations benchmark their performance, they can accurately track operations, improve communication between IT and leadership teams, identify vulnerabilities, and enhance their remediation efforts.

Types of benchmarking

There are four main types of cyber benchmarking: internal, external, performance, and practice. Let’s take a closer look at what you can gain from each type of benchmarking:

Internal benchmarking

This method compares metrics and practices from different departments, programs, product lines, units, and more within the organization. This type of benchmarking can be a good starting point to understand the current standard of business performance.

For internal benchmarking, you would need at least two areas within your organization that share metrics and practices. Certain areas of your organization may be more efficient than others and proper benchmarking can help reposition underperforming areas and improve overall business performance.

External benchmarking

This method compares the metrics and practices of one organization to others. External benchmarking gives you an objective understanding of your organization’s current performance, enabling you to set baselines and goals for internal improvement.

External benchmarking will require cooperation with other organizations within your industry, or you can leverage a third-party tool to facilitate data collection. A tool like SecurityScorecard’s Security Data can provide the cybersecurity intelligence you need to facilitate external benchmarking and bring cybersecurity data into the heart of business operations.

Performance benchmarking

This method involves collecting and comparing quantitative data. Organizations usually leverage this approach when they want to identify performance gaps. Performance benchmarking gives you a set of data that effectively informs decision-making.

For performance benchmarking, you would need standard measures and key performance indicators and the means to extract, collect and analyze that data.

Practice benchmarking

This method involves gathering qualitative information about how an action is managed through people, technology, and processes. This form of benchmarking gives you insights into where and how performance gaps occur, and as a result, provides best practices that your organization can apply to other areas.

For practice benchmarking, you would need a standard approach to collect and compare qualitative information, like process mapping.

How security ratings help establish cybersecurity benchmarks

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

Choose the right KPIs

If you’re a small business owner, or simply need to know the status of your security posture without manually wading through metrics, a security rating may be the way to go. If you want to get deeper into your score and identify performance indicators that reveal potential for improvement, a good risk rating company will be able to give you that information.

Identify potential gaps in security

Security ratings provide overview ratings of your performance, as well as more specific data in certain categories. Review your ratings to gain insights into the areas in which your organization excels and potential security gaps that need immediate attention.

Track remediation and mitigation efforts

Once you have insights into which areas of your cybersecurity program require immediate attention, you can prioritize remediation efforts and start allocating resources toward fixing the issue. Before you implement a solution, you should compare your security rating benchmarks to your current rating to see if your strategies have been effective.

Evaluate existing security controls, tools, and processes

Evaluate the performance of your existing security tools and controls. Then, compare numbers to determine whether the technology solutions add value to your cybersecurity program or not. This process can help streamline your cybersecurity efforts and implement technology that frees up resources so you can use them to focus on other important initiatives.

Monitor and compare performance with industry competitors

Benchmarking your cybersecurity performance gives you insights into how you compare against your competitors. You can look at your security ratings and compare them to your competitors’ ratings. These reports can help you identify which areas you are succeeding or failing in and gives you the opportunity to outpace your competitors.

Oversee third-party vendor cybersecurity

Companies hiring third-party vendors can implement a review process to gain confidence in a vendor. With security ratings, your organization can evaluate vendors’ security practices against industry standards, helping to identify which vendors pose a significant risk and which may be a good fit for your organization.

Improve communication with the Board

Cybersecurity ratings make it easy for you to talk to non-technical colleagues about security, especially to the Board. Rather than presenting leaders with a tangle of numbers, present them with one easy-to-read score. A single score means you’ll spend your time talking about the aspects of security that matter, rather than explaining your metrics.

How SecurityScorecard can help establish cybersecurity benchmarks

A report by Thycotic found that 58 percent of the businesses it surveyed failed to adequately measure their cybersecurity performance against best practices. For organizations that want to stay ahead of the competition, cybersecurity benchmarking is necessary for success. Cybersecurity benchmarking enables organizations to create actionable next steps for improving their security posture.

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. Security Ratings offer easy-to-read assessments that you can use to compare your current security posture against competitors and industry standards. With SecurityScorecard, you’ll gain an in-depth understanding of your current security performance, allowing you to identify clear next steps for future improvements.

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