What are Security Ratings?

By Todd Graber

Posted on Apr 14, 2020

In October 2019, Moody’s, the globally recognized business and financial services company, presented “The Financial and Credit Implications of Cyber Risk” at the EnergyTech 2019 Conference. According to the presentation, cyber attacks and the associated risks lead to financial impacts that undermine credit scores, so organizations need to evaluate the operational impact of potential cyber events and vulnerabilities. Security ratings can provide valuable visibility into an organization’s cybersecurity posture as well as it’s supply chain cyber risks.

What are security ratings?

Security ratings evaluate an organization’s cybersecurity risk using data-driven, objective, and continuously evolving metrics that provide visibility into an organization’s information security control weaknesses as well as potential vulnerabilities throughout the supply chain ecosystem.

Security ratings platforms scan the internet for possible control weaknesses, often employing technologies similar to the ones that cybercriminals use. Unlike cybercriminals, however, security ratings platforms alert your IT staff to the control weaknesses and suggest remediation actions to mitigate the risk.

Why are security ratings important?

Security ratings offer a quantitative metric for evaluating cyber risk by using easy-to-read visualizations based on the data collected by the platform. Organizations with a higher security rating have a lower risk profile. If an organization has a low rating, then they need to mitigate the potential risks to increase their score.

Defined risk categories

Even though each security ratings platform defines its risk categories differently, risk category definitions give you a way to create metrics and monitoring strategies. Organizations can leverage the risk categories to define security baselines for themselves as well as their third-party and fourth-party business partners.

Visibility into ecosystem risk

Security ratings give organizations visibility into the cyber risks that often become muddied in a highly interconnected IT ecosystem. Cloud migration strategies decrease operational costs by automating mundane tasks, but they also increase the number of threat vectors organizations need to monitor. Each system, network, or software vendor that you add to your IT inventory also outsources technology operations to vendors of their own. While you can monitor your own systems, software, and networks’s controls, you likely lack visibility into vendors’ vendors. Because security ratings collect publicly available information, they offer valuable information into potential risks across the vendor ecosystem.

Data for decision-making

Data-driven security programs need meaningful information points to drive success. Security ratings apply artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) so organizational leaders can more meaningfully review risks and prove governance over the IT, security, and privacy programs.

How are security ratings calculated?

Security ratings are collected using both active and passive methodologies. Active data collecting involves sending information requests to remote hosts to gain insight into how they respond to requests. Passive collection focuses on receiving unsolicited data, such as allowing a remote host to connect to the security ratings technology or obtaining information about transactions from the remote devices.

Security ratings platforms use scanners that examine the entire internet and identify services, vulnerabilities, and controls’ best practices as a way to monitor a company’s cybersecurity posture.

How do security ratings platforms attribute data?

As a whole, security ratings platforms identify an organization’s digital assets, such as IP addresses and domains. The platform uses this information to define the company’s “digital footprint,” or the amount of data the company creates on the internet. The organization’s digital footprint includes data from users’ online activities as well as those related to the organization’s cloud migration strategies.

For example, security ratings platforms can locate leaked credentials, such as passwords or login ID, that arise from workforce members’ network activities. Security ratings platforms can also track potential criminal activities by monitoring sinkholes that collect botnet signals, preventing a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack.

What return on investment (ROI) can organizations expect from security ratings?

Security ratings platforms enable organizations to assess risk, but they also help overcome additional security and compliance deficits many organizations face.

Cybersecurity skills gap

Organizations increasingly struggle to locate skilled cybersecurity professionals. As the organization scales and increases the size of its digital footprint, it increases the potential cybersecurity threat vectors. With a security ratings platform, you can gain visibility with real-time insight into potential risks without having to add additional personnel to manually monitor, audit, log, and remediate the vulnerabilities. Security ratings platforms streamline the process by offering remediation suggestions. Security ratings platforms provide a single dashboard for monitoring and prioritizing cyber risk so organizations can secure their ecosystems with fewer staff members.

Senior management and Board of Directors oversight

Because security ratings platforms provide reports that incorporate visualizations, IT leaders can more effectively communicate cyber risk to business leadership. With cybersecurity and privacy regulations increasingly placing the governance burden on non-IT organizational leaders, IT leaders need to provide cyber risk information that enables meaningful business risk discussions. Security ratings platforms offer easy-to-digest ways of discussing these complex risk. At the most fundamental level, a low score means the organization’s controls are not effectively securing data leaving the organization with a high risk of experiencing a data breach.

Beyond point-in-time

Cybersecurity and privacy regulations increasingly require organizations to continuously monitor their controls’ effectiveness and their ecosystem’s cybersecurity posture. Cybercriminals rapidly evolve their threat methodologies, and organizations need to ensure that they proactively monitor for new risks. Point-in-time audits and reports no longer provide assurance since they only analyze a limited time-frame. Security ratings platforms continuously monitor the organization’s information security posture and that of its ecosystem, providing organizations with a way to monitor for new threats, mitigate risks, and document their remediation strategies.

SecurityScorecard’s security ratings platform eases cyber risk operational costs

SecurityScorecard’s security ratings offer easy-to-read A-F ratings across ten groups of risk factors including DNS health, IP reputation, web application security, network security, leaked credentials, hacker chatter, endpoint security, and patching cadence.

Organizations can leverage the ratings to drive their data-driven information security programs by aligning their controls to the ten risk factors and incorporating these risk factors into their vendor service level agreements (SLAs). With SecurityScorecard’s security ratings, organizations can create consistent metrics for themselves and their supply stream to drive stronger security across the ecosystem.

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