Why You Need Cybersecurity Ratings in 2021

By Phoebe Fasulo

Posted on Jan 22, 2020

We can all probably agree that 2020 was not what we were expecting. That’s as true of cybersecurity as it has been of life in general.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown that came with it, brought its own security challenges. The FBI reported that cybercrime had quadrupled by June, as bad actors tried to take advantage of increased online activity. A sudden shift to remote work meant security teams were suddenly faced with new endpoint security challenges.

Now that 2020 is finally receding into the distance, organizations are older, wiser and looking ahead to the challenges of the coming year. No matter how you choose to face the new year — or how you felt about the old one – enhancing your cybersecurity posture with cybersecurity scorecards in 2021 should be something incorporated into your IT portfolio.

What are cybersecurity scorecards?

Cybersecurity scorecards offer a 360-degree view of your information security control effectiveness by using publicly available information collected from the internet. After collecting the information, the platforms apply predictive algorithms to correlate data across your IT supply chain so that you can better understand both your IT control effectiveness and vendor risk.

Also called “security ratings,” the data collected acts as the cyber version of a credit score. Many organizations use cybersecurity scorecards to provide at-a-glance insight into their cybersecurity posture.

How cybersecurity scorecards make remote workforces safer

2020 was The Year of Working Remotely. With employees working from home, on their own Internet and often on their own devices, security teams found themselves more concerned about network and endpoint security than ever.

According to Ponemon’s Cost of a Data Breach report, 76% of organizations worried that

remote work would make responding to a potential data breach more difficult, increasing the time to identify and respond to a breach. They also worried about the cost of a breach; 70% of respondents felt a remote workforce would increase the cost of a breach.

Endpoint security

The more employees work remotely, the higher a risk endpoint security becomes. Employee connected devices, such as smartphones or tablets, that access public internet environments (as employees work remotely) may become infected with malware and allow unauthorized access to important data.

SecurityScorecard security ratings provide transparent information not only about potential weaknesses in endpoint security but also tell you which IP addresses have been impacted. This allows your security team to easily investigate, address, and remediate concerns.

Network security

When all your employees are under the same roof (or at least behind the same firewalls) security teams can keep an eye on your network, but when everyone is working remotely, suddenly all employees are responsible for maintaining their own network security, segmenting their home networks, updating their router and so on. They’re also connecting to the company network — which can be risky. Accessing corporate networks from home comes with a higher risk of unauthorized access and data leakage.

Sure — most companies have work from home security policies, but it’s difficult to enforce security guidelines from afar. When your employees connect to the internet from unmanaged sources, your security team needs to ensure that secure HTTPS connections are used to access company web portals.

SecurityScorecard’s TLS and Application Security measurements allow you to do that, enabling security teams to identify problems with TLS Certificates as well as security risks associated with these web applications.

How cybersecurity scorecards enable a robust compliance posture

As in 2020, relatively new regulations will require companies to prove their cybersecurity posture with continuous monitoring and continuous assurance in 2021.

Many organizations still use point in time audits to prove their compliance. For example, publicly held companies often provide SOC reports that offer internal and external stakeholders insight into their controls’ effectiveness. Problematically, these reports only show the effectiveness during a specific time included in the audit scope. Since malicious actors never stop evolving their threat methodologies, these moment-in-time audits provide limited information.

Continuous controls monitoring

Cybersecurity scorecards enable organizations to monitor control effectiveness in real-time. Because the platforms continuously scan the internet for potential control weaknesses, they update daily and/or weekly.

When they detect a weakness, the platform sends an alert to the organization’s cybersecurity team. Real-time monitoring and alerting means that organizations can remediate weaknesses before they lead to data breaches.

Continuous assurance

More importantly, organizations need to document their activities to prove their compliance posture. Cybersecurity ratings make documenting compliance activities easier because they update in response to remediation actions.

For example, an organization may have a low score for patching cadence, the term for applying security updates to software, networks, and systems. Once the organization remediates the problem by installing the update, the security rating will increase to reflect the action. The change in the security rating acts as documentation for the company’s cybersecurity activities meaning that the organization has continuous documentation to prove its robust compliance posture.

How cybersecurity scorecards enable vendor risk management

Initially, cybersecurity ratings platforms intended to help organizations view the risks that might come from third-party vendors or even further into their supply stream. While you can control your own IT environment, you lack the ability to maintain the same level of cybersecurity maturity across your ecosystem.

Visibility deep into your supply stream

Digital transformation changed the way organizations work with their vendors. Your organization may adopt business enablements such as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications, but those vendors also adopt SaaS software. Then those vendors’ vendors adopt other third-party business partners. The list goes on from there.

With cybersecurity scorecards, you gain visibility into this interconnected supply stream. Security ratings platforms can incorporate over a million companies, which means that you’re going to be able to gain insight into not only your own vendors but also the third-parties they use.

Visibility into correlated risk

Correlated risk identifies common attributes between companies in a portfolio and their relevance to breach risk. By combining a company’s risk with those in the portfolio, you gain insight into whether malicious actors can exploit a common vulnerability across that group of companies.

How cybersecurity scorecards enable stakeholder communication

The inability to effectively communicate is a primary problem that organizations face when trying to mature their cybersecurity programs. Security professionals need to know deeply technical information about risks and vulnerabilities. Meanwhile, line of business professionals, such as senior leadership or Boards of Directors, need to understand the way that risk can negatively impact the bottom line.

Cybersecurity scorecards enable these communications. Your cybersecurity ratings platform alerts provide your security professionals with the technical, actionable steps necessary to remediate a new risk. Simultaneously, the ratings also provide visualizations and/or high-level, easy-to-read scores that highlight areas of strength and weakness. By incorporating cybersecurity scorecards into your information security program, you can create more meaningful conversations around risk that enable better decision making.

How cybersecurity scorecards enable a culture of cybersecurity

Fundamentally, no cybersecurity program will be effective if end-users cannot understand the value of being cyber secure. Social engineering remains a primary threat vector for almost every organization, and when the workforce went remote in late spring, a number of phishing scams targeted newly remote workers in the hopes of obtaining valuable information from their employers.

Organizations can leverage cybersecurity scorecards to establish accountability across the organization. Sharing your scorecard internally with all stakeholders allows you to provide the same information to your workforce members that you share with the C suite and Board. For example, if your cybersecurity ratings platform incorporates the risk factors, leaked credentials and/or social engineering, then your workforce members can view the score. If they see a low score, then they have visibility into how their actions such as password hygiene or clicking on a phishing email negatively impact the organization. This visibility helps create a cyber aware culture.

How SecurityScorecard enables organizations to mature their cyber risk programs

Companies recognize the importance of information security more today than they did in the past. SecurityScorecard’s security ratings platform ingests publicly available information from the internet across ten groups of risk factors, including IP reputation, DNS health, patching cadence, web application security, network security, endpoint security, leaked credential, hacker chatter, and social engineering.

We use an easy-to-read A-F rating system and update our scores in real-time so that your organization can establish a culture of security and compliance. Technology owners and line of business stakeholders can communicate better using the shared SecurityScorecard ratings language to make better-informed decisions.

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