Editor’s note: This article is an excerpt from the Essential Guide to IT Security Strategy.
Businesses in the digital age can no longer rely on disconnected security tools, alongside robust protocols and policies, to avoid increasing IT security threats. The development of a proactive and multidimensional strategy for securing data and your organization’s IT infrastructure is built on well-developed security policies, and overall strategy. However, the first step toward developing that security strategy is to conduct a thorough and in-depth threat assessment.
A threat assessment process is designed to define, identify, and classify the security holes (vulnerabilities) in a business’s computer, network, and communications infrastructure. This process requires expertise in gathering the information and developing the vulnerability analysis that will guide the choice and implementation of effective countermeasures that can address an evolving threat landscape.
Threat assessments require:
- Identification, definition, and classification of all network and system resources, including all hardware and software
- A catalog of all resources based on a defined level of importance
- Identification of possible threats based on each resource
- Development of a mitigation strategy for the most serious problems first
- Creation of definitions and implementation protocols to alleviate attack consequences
A thorough and oft-repeated threat assessment will likely reveal security holes and must then be matched to a defined process of remediation. In this approach, security experts deliberately probe a network or system to discover its weaknesses.
This process provides guidelines for the development of countermeasures to prevent a genuine attack. Most business COOs and even network directors lack the necessary expertise, so it pays to begin with an understanding of the basic security strategy building blocks.
Security Strategy Building Blocks
For most businesses, the development of a security strategy and a threat assessment are highly daunting endeavors. For business leaders, the first step would mean a thorough briefing on what this would basically entail. The National Institute of Standards and Technology's Cybersecurity Framework and the Center for Internet Security’s 20 Critical Controls are both good starting places for novices .
These tools can help an organization:
- Better understand, manage, and reduce its cybersecurity risk
- Identify specific and actionable ways to close security gaps
- Determine which activities are the most important to assure critical operations and service delivery
- Prioritize investment to maximize cybersecurity ROI
The listings and descriptions are a valuable way to ensure an organization investigates all appropriate controls and communication with non-technical executives. These are the first five controls:
- Inventory of authorized and unauthorized devices
- Inventory of authorized and unauthorized software
- Secure configurations for hardware and software on mobile devices, laptops, workstations, and servers
- Continuous vulnerability assessment and remediation
- Controlled use of administrative privileges
Businesses must keep in mind that an IT security strategy is far from a one-size-fits-all proposition. Equally important is the fact that it must continually evolve just like the risk management and assessments must happen periodically. The only way to thwart attacks is by conducting rigorous and regular cybersecurity enterprise risk management assessments, which require sustained commitment to implementing and overseeing the process.
The challenge of realizing their security goals will require businesses to understand that the combination of IT strategy and IT security is a full-time job that requires expertise well beyond the level of most business environments. In the IT journey to a secure business, from infrastructure to endpoints, businesses will need the expertise and support of both an IT security team and a partner.
The Importance of an IT Infrastructure Security Partner
A recent article, published by IDG Communications' security and risk publication, showed statistics of the current shortage of nearly a half million security experts for businesses in the U.S. This is only one of a dozen statistics that don’t bode well for SMBs. When skilled IT security experts run into tight budgets, the result is a security disaster waiting to happen for businesses without in-house expertise.
Consequently, it is imperative to match an IT services support partner with security expertise and personnel. The right partner for managed security services can provide businesses with access to talent that they otherwise could not find (or afford in-house), talent who can advise, implement, and operate their cybersecurity and privacy programs.
The complexity and scope of developing and implementing a security strategy with real-time threat management will require the expertise of technology and partner support, driven by an experienced managed services provider that can:
- Deliver rapid insights into cyber risks
- Provide real-time, 24/7 monitoring, as well as targeted searches and analytics on an organization’s historical security data
- Design and implement a holistic threat intelligence solution
- Monitor the digital ecosystem, respond to incidents, and share threat intelligence
In order for businesses to begin their journey toward development and implementation of an effective IT strategy, businesses must first understand the most prevalent security risks to the enterprise or SMB.
Do you want to read the rest of this guide? Download our Essential Guide to IT Security Strategy.