What is a Cybersecurity Posture and How Can You Evaluate It?

By Phoebe Fasulo

Posted on Dec 19, 2019

As cyber threats and hackers continue to advance, in numbers and sophistication, it’s now more important than ever to have a clear vision of your organization’s cybersecurity posture. In addition to strict compliance standards, the pressure put on companies by the public to protect their sensitive data is growing stronger every day, but the traditional methods of online security are no longer considered sufficient. As hackers continue to get smarter and companies increasingly move to cloud-based apps, organizations are encouraged to take a holistic approach to cybersecurity posture that takes all of the pieces into consideration.

What is a cybersecurity posture?

Cybersecurity posture refers to an organization’s overall defense against cyber-attacks. Your cybersecurity posture encompasses any security policies in place, employee training programs, or security solutions you have deployed, from malware to anti-virus. It is the collective security status of all software and hardware, services, networks, and information, and how secure you are as a result of those tools and processes.

Understanding cybersecurity risk vs. cybersecurity posture

Although many people use these two terms interchangeably, they are not the same. This is because one cannot truly be defined without the other. To understand the efficacy of your cybersecurity posture you must first complete a cybersecurity risk assessment that will identify the full extent of your vulnerability across various assets within the organization. Identifying your risks and potential weaknesses helps the team to decide what actions need to be taken first and which will have the most impact on increasing your cybersecurity posture. To put it simply, as your cybersecurity posture strength increases your cybersecurity risk should decrease.

Why is your cybersecurity posture important?

Understanding your company or organization’s cybersecurity posture is essential to recognize where you stand in regard to online security threats such as data breaches and intrusions. By understanding where your organization is most vulnerable you can begin to establish a plan for creating a more secure environment.

It is important to create a habit of regularly monitoring and maintaining your cybersecurity posture because cybercriminals are constantly finding new ways to take advantage of the weaknesses in a company’s infrastructure. Adopting a more holistic approach that takes things like existing policies or systems, risk-analysis programs, workplace culture, and employee education into consideration is highly encouraged. Identifying all points of vulnerability will help the organization to be proactive rather than reactive to cybersecurity threats. Choosing not to do so can lead to a major breach which usually comes with a loss in revenue and important data, and even more importantly, it can ruin your reputation with the public which can be almost impossible to get back.

Evaluating your cybersecurity posture

The first step for evaluating the maturity of your cybersecurity posture is to identify your business’s needs and objectives. You should keep these goals in mind as you build out the security framework so that you can put the right systems in place for your organization’s needs. For example, if a remote working policy is essential to your organization’s productivity goals, it will be essential to update your cybersecurity posture to incorporate security policies geared toward mobile devices and remote network access. While it’s important to stay aligned with the company, it is crucial that you avoid sacrificing security for the sake of your company’s bottom line. Your first priority should be to protect the company from any cyber threats rather than to meet its bottom line.

Next, use a risk management program to prioritize all assets in order from most to least vulnerable so that you can see which changes will make the biggest impact on your overall cybersecurity posture rating. It will be nearly impossible to tackle everything at once, so figuring out where your efforts are best spent is crucial to getting ahead of the game. After identifying all assets and points of vulnerability, you will be able to begin to layout a cybersecurity framework as well as implement systems and processes that address future security risks.

It is important to note that your efforts should extend far beyond just the IT department. Time needs to be spent educating employees on cybersecurity best practices and the workplace culture should encourage employees to take responsibility when it comes to protecting sensitive information. It’s also important that you look into your organization’s 3rd-party vendors and assess their susceptibility as well so that you can be aware of any and all potential weaknesses. High-risk vendors warrant frequent audits and organizations are held responsible for any data breaches that may occur, which can add up in cost and resources, so it’s a good idea to perform periodic audits on any third-party vendors.

Here are four indicators that can help to evaluate your vendor’s cybersecurity posture:

  • Diligence: Has the vendor taken steps to prevent a cyber attack? This will reveal whether or not the organization has a robust cybersecurity program and risk management practices in place.
  • User behavior: Employees that share files or exhibit behavior that may expose sensitive data can make organizations more susceptible to breach.
  • Compromised systems: From exploited devices and malware servers, existing compromised systems show that the organization will be susceptible to future breaches.
  • Security breaches: Be sure to evaluate the organization’s history of data breaches. This is a key indicator of its cybersecurity posture and its likelihood to experience a future breach.

5 tips to strengthen your cybersecurity posture

Since hackers are moving at such a fast pace, an organization’s cybersecurity efforts should never really end. When it comes to maintaining a strong cybersecurity posture, focus on the following areas:

Build a team

Consider establishing a dedicated cyber team that can regularly monitor the organization’s cybersecurity posture. They’ll be able to stop potential incidents before they happen so that you can be sure that you’re meeting the public’s growing demand for stronger online security. A solid team can devote more time to overall maintenance, ensuring that you’re keeping everyone happy on all ends, as well as ensuring that both employees and C-level team members alike have a clear understanding of cybersecurity policies and why it’s so important for the company.

Check-in on a regular basis

The cybersecurity world is fast-paced and new standards are constantly being set, which is why you must regularly monitor your organization’s cybersecurity posture. This is how you can avoid cyber threats and potential breaches before they become a serious issue.

Encourage a strong cybersecurity culture

If you promote a strong security culture within the company then you’ll be minimizing risk from the beginning and will be able to avoid future mistakes and mishaps. Fostering the right company culture involves:

  • Awareness: Employees should understand the importance of cybersecurity, the potential consequences of data breaches, and the role they play in prevention.
  • Testing: Testing allows organizations to identify employees or systems that are more susceptible to threats and provide training or patches for them.
  • Training: Regular training teaches employees how to recognize and respond to cyberattacks effectively.

Employees who are aware of the threat landscape will be less susceptible to things like phishing attacks and will be aware of best practices such as regularly updating devices and apps. Based on the level of in-house security expertise at your organization, it might even be worth it to bring in high-level experts to help establish a concrete system moving forward or to help educate employees.

Follow a cybersecurity framework

Cybersecurity frameworks provide a strategic plan to help businesses stay protected. Given their specific needs for compliance and data protection, different industries have different frameworks that work for them. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has the most widely used and recognized security framework in the US. It includes five components:

  • Identify: Understand and recognize potential risks based on the data that is regularly handled, the client base, and the regulations that are relevant to the organization.
  • Protect: Invest in the appropriate protective technologies and implement security procedures, such as employee training and system patching.
  • Detect: Continuously monitor for cyber threats and system vulnerabilities.
  • Respond: Prepare a plan to mitigate security breaches and communicate with staff and customers.
  • Recover: Restore systems, patch system flaws, and take steps to manage the organization’s reputation.

Plan for cyberattacks

Every business should be prepared for a cyber attack. By preparing an incident response plan, you and your team know exactly what to do in the event of an attack. Responding quickly to a cyber attack can help minimize downtime, protect your reputation, and reduce financial losses. This plan typically involves:

  • Gathering the team members involved
  • Detecting the source of the breach
  • Containing the issue
  • Evaluating the damage
  • Notifying appropriate authorities and affected individuals as is outlined by compliance requirements

How SecurityScorecard can help you evaluate your cybersecurity posture

The cybersecurity landscape is changing at a rapid pace, and if companies can’t keep up with new regulations and the public demand for strong data security, then they will quickly find themselves struggling to stay in the game. SecurityScorecard’s self-assessment capabilities can help you understand your cybersecurity posture and address the risks in real-time. The simple grading system gives you a quick snapshot of your organization’s security performance and makes it easy to demonstrate your cyber health to executives and directors. Using 10 groups of risk factors, SecurityScorecard allows you to quickly and easily identify any vulnerabilities in your systems.

As people begin to trust companies with more of their private information, a strong cybersecurity posture is a necessity, so it’s important to keep these key tips and considerations in mind as you build out your organization’s cybersecurity plan.

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