Building an Effective Cyber Security Strategy
A cyber security strategy is a comprehensive plan of actions and a portfolio of technologies, policies, procedures, and measures designed to protect and minimise risk to an organisation’s digital assets, information, and technology infrastructure from a wide range of cyber threats and attacks. An effective strategy should be a commitment to staying vigilant and applying a tailored approach to managing cyber security risks and ensuring the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data and systems.
A well-defined cybersecurity strategy is essential in today’s digital age, where cyber threats are constantly evolving and becoming increasingly sophisticated. Once implemented, the cyber security strategy should be regularly reviewed and updated for effectiveness, based on the current business goals, infrastructure and threats in the digital world. The strategy should be a living document, or set of documents, that should be adaptable to the current threat landscape and evolving business climate.
A cyber security policy is more detailed and specifically focused on the operational component of security, where a cyber security strategy provides a high-level blueprint to guide key stakeholders as the company and business environment evolve. The strategy typically has a three-to-five-year horizon but should be updated and revisited frequently. The primary goal of any cybersecurity strategy is to achieve cyber resiliency, which includes a strategy that prepares an organisation to respond effectively in the event of an attack. Any significant changes to the cyber security strategy should be manifested in the security policy.
A base starting point for cyber security review is setting an annual review period, however, the need for review is more complex and should consider real world changes and the digital position of the business. Some potential triggers for a strategy review are:
- Annually: plan to conduct a comprehensive review every year reviewing changes to business operations and threat changes in the security landscape;
- A significant security event/incident: if the organisation experiences a significant event or incident, successful or unsuccessful, this should trigger a prompt for review to understand what worked, what did not work and how that may apply to other areas of the business;
- Technology changes: should the organisation launch a new product or service or adopt operational new technology, software or systems a review should be triggered to re-evaluate any new threats and ensure the new assets are effectively protected with the current systems;
- A merger or acquisition: changes and additions to the core business structure will generally introduce new systems and people, which potentially expose additional threats and risks to the organisation, a cyber security policy and strategy review should be a critical component of any onboarding process;
- A change in industry regulations and or compliance: changes to cyber security regulations, industry standards or legal requirements should be monitored by the organisation and any additions or changes that impact the business or industry must be factored into the overall strategy and policy;
- A change in the threat landscape: the digital landscape is constantly evolving with new ideas and opportunities to target businesses and individuals being designed regularly. Monitor emerging threats and vulnerabilities for the organisation’s chosen technology stack and operational software packages and adjust the strategy and policy where required to address these new challenges;
- Scheduled testing and simulation: conducting regular penetration testing, vulnerability assessments, and tabletop exercises to identify weaknesses in the cyber security strategy and policy, the outcomes should be to deliver insights and findings helping identify vulnerabilities prior to them being exploited and should regularly inform your security strategy and policy;
- Feedback and lessons learned: a highly valuable source of information is from the team at the coal face, this is the cyber security team and employees who interact with security measures daily. Collect and review lessons learned from incidents or successful attack defences to inform and improve the strategy and policy;
- Minor organisational changes which should trigger a cursory review, with the aim of identifying if a larger more detailed review is required are:
- Employee changes or training: significant additions, exits or sideways movement of your workforce could trigger a policy review to ensure training and daily practices continue to protect the organisation;
- Budget or resource changes: an increase or reduction in the resources available to maintain organisational security may impact the ability to implement and maintain or extend effective security measures, any significant changes to resourcing should be reviewed for alignment with security priorities.
What are the key components of an effective Cyber Security Strategy?
There are numerous components to a comprehensive Cyber Security Strategy and or Policy. This article outlines high level concepts of what should be included to help the process get started. Each section of the document should be defined, created and reviewed to ensure the 6 topics are addressed and maintain the organisational goals while remaining within the organisational risk profile. An effective cyber security strategy should be tailored to the organisation’s specific needs and risks based on their industry, customer and data profile and operational processes. Any security planning should be regularly reviewed and updated.
The 6 fundamental areas of an effective strategy are:
- Defining and understanding the organisational security goals: two key components of an effective security strategy are that the strategy aligns with the business goals of the organisation and that the strategy fits within the accepted risk appetite of the organisation. Developing a strategy that does not meet these two basic tests is ineffective and will never achieve organisational buy-in or deliver real effective security initiatives. To achieve successful security goals the current state of play will need to be determined and “reasonable” expectations will need to be set for the cyber security strategy and policy outcomes.The current security maturity of the organisation can be defined by undertaking the following:
- An organisational Risk Assessment;
- Defining SMART metrics for the organisation;
- Benchmarking the current state;
- Defining an achievable reporting format and rhythm.
Set “reasonable” expectations for the organisation;
- Resource requirements: Do the required skills exist in the organisation? Will an external vendor be required to deliver? Is there an appetite to hire for the role? What is the most effective and efficient way to adopt the required skills?
Delivery timelines: What are reasonable delivery periods to define and implement the initial strategy and policies? Does this timeframe expose the organisation? What will be the strategy maintenance and review cycle? Do these timeframes align with the organisation’s business goals, risk appetite, and compliance requirements?
- Budgeting: Define the CAPEX and OPEX costs required to achieve the strategy? Is it more fiscally efficient to onboard the skills required, or outsource to an expert? Can the budget adjustments be made based on the organisation’s historical performance? Is the budget robust enough to deliver the required initiatives to stop cyber security risk without putting the organisation at financial risk (expecting a zero-risk environment is not possible, the goal should be significant reduction)?
- Defining an achievable reporting format and rhythm: Can the strategy and policies be defined and implemented in a timely manner to protect the organisation? Will the defined reporting timeframes and reports effectively communicate the correct and useful information to the key stakeholders? Can the reporting process and content be streamlined or are there gaps in the provided data preventing effective decision making?
Select a security framework: To ensure nothing is missed and to comply with industry standards, it’s better to start building a cyber security strategy with the help of a proven cyber security framework. These frameworks are blueprints of policies, goals, and guidelines that explain all cybersecurity activities within an organisation.
When choosing the right framework for a company, remember that the blueprint can be adjusted to fit defined business goals. A risk inventory will come in handy at this point and will help identify the appropriate framework. The organisation’s industry, data types and end users will help determine the best direction to approach the security strategy.
Here is a list of common cyber security frameworks:
- NIST: The U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is a voluntary framework providing a comprehensive approach to managing cyber security risk. The framework includes a set of standards, guidelines, and best practices for managing cybersecurity risk. It is based on five core principles: identify, protect, detect, respond, and recover.
- ISO 27001 and ISO 27002: ISO 27001 is an international standard for Information Security Management Systems (ISMS). ISO 27002 provides a code of practice for implementing security controls. These standards help organisations establish and maintain a systematic approach to managing information security by providing guidelines for establishing, implementing, maintaining, and continually improving the information security management system (ISMS). An ISMS is a framework for managing information security risks and protecting organisational assets.
- CIS Controls: Developed by the Center for Internet Security, these controls offer a prioritised set of actions to protect organisations against common cyber threats. The CIS Controls are a set of 20 baseline security controls that are designed to mitigate the most common cyber threats. They are based on the principle of defence in depth and are designed to be implemented in a layered approach. They are divided into three categories: Basic, Foundational, and Organisational.
Once the decision has been made to leverage the most appropriate cyber security framework, the included policies require personalisation to deliver on the specific organisational cyber security strategy needs and business goals.
Set Security policies: To realise a cyber security strategy, a set of security policies must be created and enforced organisation wide. Security policies serve as the company-wide rulebook for the cyber security strategy. There is a difference between having a security policy and enforcing it. The cyber security policy is for employees as much as it’s for the CISO, helping them understand their role in the cyber security strategy through collaboration and communication.
When developing a cyber security policy, consider the following:
- Password requirements;
- Zero-trust and minimal access permissions;
- IAM & credential management;
- Protecting sensitive data;
- A cyber security incident response plan;
- Monitoring and identification of any unusual activities.
- Undertake risk assessment and prevention: this activity encompasses the security tools and software serving as the first line of defence against cyber security events. The product suite should include tools such as firewalls, SEGs, anti-virus/malware software, IDS/IPS, password managers, MFA, and many more tools, depending on current digital operations. Identify and assess the existing list of assets leveraged by the organisation and map any vulnerabilities which may exist to be exploited. Without cataloguing and valuing the existing data sources and storage in the organisation it is impossible to effectively build a risk profile.An excellent starting place is to review the ACSC’s “Essential Eight”. These eight strategies are a starting point to manage cyber risk and understand the “Maturity Model” of an organisation:
- Application control: whitelist safe and approved applications and lock down malicious or exploitable software;
- Patch applications: monitor and keep all software/applications up to date with the latest patches and software updates;
- Configure Microsoft Office macro settings: block the ability for the inbuilt MS macros from being executed remotely to deliver malware;
- User application hardening: lock down browsers to prevent the execution of code that could deliver malware;
- Restrict administrative privileges: frequently review and revise the roles required for administration;
- Patch operating systems: ensure all operating systems remain patched and up to date;
- Multi-factor authentication: using multistep and or multi factor verification for all user access is a highly successful methodology for protecting digital assets;
- Regular backups: frequent back up and medium-term storage of data backups will help protect organisational data and or speed up the recovery process in the event of a security incident.
Using the “Essential Eight”, will help to map the maturity level (between zero and three) of the organisation. An external security consulting expert will be able to help undertake an organisation’s review based on the “Essential Eight” model. Use the following process to build a digital catalogue to be addressed:
- Identify assets: create a repository listing all hardware and software;
- Determine the data classifications: are the assets public, confidential, internal use only, intellectual property or compliance restructured data;
- Map the assets: software, systems, and users (identity, role, resource requirements);
- Identify the threat landscape: review assets and vendors, external vs internal infrastructure, and diagram all networks and their connectivity;
- Prioritise risks: once identified, undertake an impact analysis and create a risk register to define the risk, what hardware/software does the risk pose as a threat and rank the risk by priority;
- Reduce the business’s attack surface: reduction of the externally facing business systems will reduce the risk of attack vulnerabilities.
This is also the step where the organisation would define their Risk Management Plan. The Risk Management Plan is a structured document that outlines an organisation’s approach to identifying, assessing, prioritising, and mitigating risks that could impact its operations, assets, projects, or strategic objectives. The primary goal of a risk management plan is to proactively manage and minimise potential threats and uncertainties, allowing the organisation to make informed decisions and reduce the likelihood and impact of adverse events. There are several key elements to a risk management plan, some are discussed in this article, the rest are available on the internet and can be found in available RMP templates.
- Deliver Security awareness and training: Having a security plan is a critical component in protecting an organisation, without good cyber security education of employees and network users on the risks and best practices the plan is nothing but another unread document. Training will help to reduce the risk of human error, which is a significant contributing factor in many cyber breaches. Educating employees and stakeholders on the importance of cyber security, how to identify and respond to potential threats, and best practice digital practices is a key piece of ensuring the digital safety of an organisation.Comprehensive security training should inform the trainees on the various components of the security strategy and plan:
- Review and discuss the organisational goals: micro and macro security goals, priorities, the reasoning and drivers of the goals;
- Detail the preferred security framework: what it is and how it works;
- Review the defined Security Policies: the defined ruleset around the six core areas of the security policy;
- The identified risk in the business: what are the risk, what are the mitigation strategies and what are the individual responsibilities and processes for risk prevention and mitigation;
- Discuss the Risk Management Plan: share the plan document and review with the team so that the key elements of the plan are understood and adopted;
- The details on the Network Security and Access Control: assign and train on specific roles, controls, the existing network and tech stack;
- Review the Data Management Policy: to ensure all teams are aware of the rules and procedures in dealing with the different types of organisational data;
- Discuss Incident Response: what individual responsibilities, what is the process in case of an event and what is the priority action matrix in the event of an incident.
- Implement Network Security and Access Control: After the organisational risks have been identified, security controls can be implemented to mitigate them. Security controls are technical (e.g., firewalls, intrusion detection systems), administrative (e.g., security policies, procedures), or physical (e.g., access control systems). Implementation of network security measures such as firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and access controls help to protect the organisation’s network against unauthorised access. When building the network security and access controls the key areas of consideration are:
- Roles: There are many potential roles useful and or required to roll out an effective cyber security program for an organisation. Some of the roles can and should be outsourced to cyber security experts, but some of the key roles that should be internal in the organisation are; CISO (Chief Information Security Office) or some C-level individual responsible for advocating and pressing the financial and procedural security requirements for the organisation. Once the top role has been assigned, there are a multitude of specialised roles around network admin, system admin, firewall admin, compliance, analysts, engineers and architects. The size of the organisation will determine the how specific the role hires skill sets can be, but it is critical to cover the areas of the network, systems (databases/storage), and the security controls listed below;
- Controls: Controls are the measures used to define the usage and protection of assets. There are two categories of controls, administrative and physical, with several controls in each category. Administrative controls: network access control policies, network segmentation and segregation, network encryption, user authentication and authorisation, accounting (activity auditing), data/content filtering, user account management, intrusion detection systems, incident response plan, security awareness training, 3rd party vendor assessment. Physical Controls: physical access control, environmental controls, cable management, equipment protection, and redundancy and failover. On top of both categories’ documentation, monitoring and logging is required to ensure the controls are available, understood, maintained and any incidents can be reviewed and analysed;
- Networks: There are various components of an organisation’s digital network. The network includes the computer network, devices, and data. Protection and failsafe are required for unauthorised access, attacks, threats, use, disclosure, disruption, modification, or destruction. The safeguards are implemented into the various layers of a network; the physical layer, data link layer, network layer, transport layer, and application layer. Planning is required to maintain the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of network resources;
- Tech Stack: Having a cyber security plan and policies is excellent for protection of the business, but protection is also required in the software development lifecycle. Automation of the threat detection process in code security is a key piece for organisations that build their own software. Code secrets, PII, and credentials are particularly hard to detect in code through conventional means and code review. As such, they demand an automated secret scanning tool that integrates seamlessly in the CI/CD pipeline. There are numerous products on the market which will help with protection during the software development process.
- Data Management: Establishing policies and procedures for data management, including data classification, storage, access control, and backup is critical. Defining the practices, processes, and technologies used by the organisation to collect, store, organise, secure, and maintain data throughout its lifecycle ensures that data is viewed and treated with care and respect, as it can be one of the most valuable assets of a business. The goal of data management is to ensure that data is accurate, accessible, and available when needed, while also addressing issues related to data quality, privacy, security, and compliance. Effective data management is essential for making informed business decisions, improving efficiency, and complying with legal and regulatory requirements.Data management policy: A data management policy is a formal document that provides a framework for ensuring compliance with laws and regulations and helps organisations achieve their business goals by providing clear instructions for handling, protecting, and governing their data assets throughout their lifecycle. The DMP serves as a strategic framework for managing data effectively, ensuring data quality, privacy, security, and compliance with legal and regulatory requirements, while mitigating the risks associated with data misuse and breaches. It provides guidance on how data is collected, stored, processed, and shared internally and external to the organisation. A well-defined and well-communicated data management policy is crucial for maintaining data integrity, privacy, and security while enabling organisations to derive value from their data assets. It serves as a reference point for all employees and stakeholders to understand their roles and responsibilities in data management and data-related decision-making.The DMP is a critical part of any data management initiative and plays an important role in reducing risks related to data breaches and ensuring compliance with laws and regulations. These benefits fit as the data component of the overarching cyber security strategy.A Data Management Policy will generally observe the following structure:
- Introduction: provide an overview of the policy and its purpose;
- Scope: define the scope of the policy and the types of data to which it applies;
- Roles and responsibilities: what are the roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders in the data management process;
- Data collection: what are the channels, integrations and pathways in which data will be collected and classified and to maintain the expected quality of the data;
- Data storage: how and where will the data be stored, what is the process of backing up the data and for data restoration;
- Data organisation: what are the structures and frameworks to be used to organise the data;
- Data protection: how will access be provided to ensure the data is protected from unauthorised users, disclosure, disruption, modification, or destruction and that only correct usage of the data is ensured;
- Data use: how the organisation will use data, how the data can be transmitted, shared and any internal and external system integrations;
- Data retention and destruction: how the organisation will retain and destroy data;
- Data governance and compliance: what are the internal and regulatory requirements for the collection, storage and use of the data, including auditing and reporting requirements;
- Annotations and links: all supporting documents, laws, regulations or source content is linked in the appendix/footnotes section of the document.
- Incident response: Even with the best security controls in place, there is always a risk of a breach. It is important to have a plan in place for responding to and recovering from a security incident. Cyber security incident response (CSIR), or simply IR, is a systematic approach to managing and mitigating a security incident through identifying, containing, eradicating, and recovering the event root cause. It is a critical part of any organisation’s cyber security strategy. It is important to note that cyber security incident response is an ongoing process. It is important to regularly review and update the incident response plan to ensure that it is effective against the latest threats. These are the general steps involved in cyber security incident response:
- Engage an external IR or Forensic Expert: organisations will typically engage external expertise and support immediately after an incident. These experts should be included in the incident response but have a clear delineation between the IR tasks and the forensic review and each team clear on the scope of their responsibilities and limits of their control. Engagement of the appropriate experts may even be considered in the preparation phase, to ensure the needs of the experts are identified in time for them to be met. Experts may also advise on any preparation that can be added including additional technical measures or processes such as logging and backup retention practices or password management practices. Experts can also assist with advice around incident response plans. An expert can be sourced internally, where the skills exist, but this would be considered the exception and not the norm;
- Preparation: Establishing an incident response plan (see the definition below) is the first step to preparing for a cyber security incident. The plan outlines how to create an incident response team consisting of key personnel roles and responsibilities, an inventory of critical assets, procedures for responding to cyber security incidents including internal and external communications protocols, and a process for testing the incident response plan regularly. Ensure the organisation complies with legal and regulatory obligations by notifying the appropriate authorities, customers, and stakeholders where required. The plan also outlines and ensures access to the resources the incident response team may require;
- Identification: Potential cyber security incidents are detected and identified by monitoring network traffic, system logs, security logs, and other security tools. Any suspicious activities or indicators of compromise should be immediately reported. While organisations should have continuous monitoring of all systems and technologies in place, in situations where this is not the case, and a breach occurs all systems breached and safe require monitoring to be active during the incident response;
- Containment: Once a cyber security incident has been detected, it is critical to isolate the affected systems or networks to prevent further damage or unauthorised access. This may involve disconnecting compromised devices from the network, blocking malicious activity IP addresses, and removing the malware or other threat;
- Eradication: A thorough investigation should be conducted to identify the source of the attack and systems impacted. Determine the root cause and remove the threat by eliminating malware, closing vulnerabilities, or patching systems. Keep detailed records of all findings and actions taken during the eradication process;
- Recovery: Once the cyber security incident has been contained and eradicated, it is important to recover from the incident. Restore affected systems and data to their normal state. This may involve restoring from backups, rebuilding compromised systems, or implementing additional security measures. Gradually restore affected systems to normal operations and strengthen security measures for all systems, not just for those that have been affected;
- Lessons Learned: Conduct a post-incident review to analyse the incident response process and identify weaknesses and areas for improvement in the organisation’s security posture and incident response plan. Document the lessons learned and prepare a detailed incident report that includes information about the incident’s nature, scope, and impact. Document the actions taken, including containment, eradication, and recovery efforts;
- Forensic Reporting: The process, often referred to as digital forensics or cyber forensics, is a branch of cyber security that involves the collection, preservation, analysis and presentation of digital evidence related to cyber incidents, security breaches, or other computer-related crimes. The primary goal of cyber security response forensics is to investigate and understand the details of a security incident, including the who, what, when, where, why, and how, to aid in incident response, legal proceedings, and the prevention of future incidents. Response forensics are a critical part of understanding the incident, preventing similar future incidents, but also document vital information for the authorities and insurance companies. Using an external security expert will help build trust in the findings for presentation to external organisations. Engaging a forensic expert early in the incident response process allows for their input into the response planning and delivery while also giving full transparency not just into the incident but also the rectification measures implemented;
All the above steps should exist and be detailed in the Incident Response Plan. A cyber security Incident Response Plan (IRP) is a formal, structured document that outlines the procedures and strategies an organisation will follow when responding to and managing various types of security incidents. The primary purpose of an incident response plan is to minimise the impact of security breaches, data breaches, cyberattacks, and other adverse events, while also ensuring the organisation’s continuity and protecting its data and systems. It should be tailored to the specific needs of the organisation and should cover all aspects of incident response, including detection, containment, mitigation, and recovery from security incidents in a systematic and coordinated manner. A well-crafted IRP can help organisations to; reduce the impact of a security incident, minimise the disruption to business operations, comply with applicable laws and regulations, and protect the organisation’s reputation. A typical IRP will contain the sections outlined in the 6 dot points listed in the Incident Response section, detailing in each step, the procedures to follow, roles, and critical elements to consider and enact.
An additional advantage of engaging with an external security professional is the ability to undertake Blue Team Workshops. A Blue Team Workshop is a cybersecurity exercise or training session that focuses on the defensive aspect of cybersecurity. It involves simulating and practising defence strategies, incident response procedures, and security operations. The primary goal of a Blue Team Workshop is to enhance an organisation’s ability to protect its network and systems should they encounter a cyber security event. The workshop will improve incident detection and response capabilities. Blue Team Workshops typically cover topics such as security operations, threat hunting, incident response, and network defence. These workshops often involve hands-on exercises and real-world scenarios to provide participants with practical experience in defending against cyber-attacks. Being prepared and practised for a security incident will save an organisation time, money and reputation by ensuring the event is handled quickly, effectively and following best practices. Blue Team Workshops are a highly valuable component of incident response preparation work all organisations should undertake.
The six sections above outline the key components of an effective security strategy. Throughout the information provided there are a few key topics that are repeat regularly and are worth summarising again:
- Preparation: prepare and share organisational document(s) covering all the key components outlined above.
- Dissemination: ensure all staff are aware of the document(s), have access to the document(s) and are provided adequate training in the critical areas of the security plan.
- Location: the document(s) should live in an intuitive, easy to locate and accessible by all staff location, and staff should be encouraged to regularly re-familiarise themselves with the document(s) contents.
All security measures and documentation should be regularly monitored and reviewed to ensure they are effective, up-to-date, and evolve with the changing threat landscape. The staff member(s) responsible for driving the organisation’s security should have KPIs specific to organisational security and the maintenance, upkeep and staff updates of the security document library.
What areas of the business should be considered in building an effective strategy and why?
An effective cyber security strategy is essential to protect the organisation’s digital assets and sensitive information from various threats. Below is a list of fundamental business operation areas and resources that require careful consideration when preparing the security strategy and policy. Some of the topics are covered in greater detail earlier in the article, but bear mentioning alongside related critical business areas.
- Risk Assessment: A critical component of the preparation work is to Identify and assess the specific risks the organisation faces, including potential threats and vulnerabilities. RA has been covered in detail. Knowing the potential threats and impact allows organisations to effectively triage efforts in delivery of security initiatives.
- Asset Inventory: An inventory of all digital assets, including hardware, software, data, and network components. Knowing what to protect is crucial and the ability to identify and prioritise essential vs non-essential assets will help determine security practices and an order of operations in the event of an incident.
- Security Policies and Procedures: This document focuses on the development of clear and comprehensive security policies and procedures that define internal security practices for an organisation. The focus of this article has been on detailing what should be done while highlighting some critical systems and assets.
- Access Control: Implementing strong access controls ensures that only authorised individuals have access to sensitive information and systems. This may involve user authentication, role-based access control, and privileged access management. The system’s access controls do not need to be complex, but care should be taken to employ systems and processes to limit the access to all users based on need. A lax approach to user and access management has historically contributed to the root cause of many organisational breaches and is still common practice.
- Employee Training and Awareness: Training employees to recognize and respond to security threats effectively is a critical deliverable when enacting security policy. Employees are often the first line of identification of and or defence against cyberattacks. Often initial training is minimal and ongoing security training is an exception not the norm. As front-line staff use most organisational systems and or interact with external system users, ensuring a security consciousness in all employees can save an organisation from experiencing significant cyber security disruption and financial pain.
- Network Security: Is covered in detail in the sections above, the implementation of network security measures such as firewalls, intrusion detection/prevention systems, and network segmentation are critical in protecting against unauthorised access and data breaches.
- Endpoint Security: All endpoints (computers, mobile devices, etc.) should be secured with up-to-date antivirus software, endpoint detection and response (EDR) tools, and regular patch management. When an organisation effectively maintains a robust and detailed asset inventory, the maintenance of endpoint security is made much easier for the systems administration and or hardware teams.
- Encryption: Ensuring all data (sensitive, critical, private, open, etc) is encrypted both in transit and storage will help prevent unauthorised access in case of a breach. Effective encryption systems can also provide further protection where the data has been illegally accessed and can prevent usage of the data contents even if data escapes the DMZ.
- Regular Updates and Patch Management: Is covered in detail in the sections above, keeping all software and systems up to date with the latest security patches and updates addressing known vulnerabilities is a simple and easy process to help prevent basic intrusions.
- Incident Response Plan: Is covered in detail in the sections above, developing a well-defined incident response plan that outlines how the organisation will detect, respond to, and recover from cybersecurity incidents is a key component of a robust security strategy.
- Security Monitoring: Implement continuous monitoring of IT environments to detect and respond to security threats in real-time. Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) tools are very helpful, and the development of the organisational security strategy, policies and associated documentation will allow for rapid response if/when security monitoring identifies a threat.
- Backup and Recovery: This is a critical component for all organisations, heavily related to the security of the organisation, but also just best practice for all data collection. Regularly backup critical and non-critical data and ensure that backups are stored securely. The process of backup and recovery of data is critical and encompasses enough information to produce another article.
- Vendor Security Assessment: Third party vendors and partners provide skills and resources to help delivery and grow organisational capabilities. They also pose a critical threat avenue depending on the security practices of the external organisation. The assessment of the cyber security practices of third-party vendors and partners is critical to ensure they meet organisation security standards. If the organisation regularly works with external vendors and partners, development of a modified and reduced security training program for external employees is critical to ensure ongoing safety. Having a clear security onboarding and exit process and procedures for external vendors will also help protect the organisation.
- Compliance: Ensure compliance with relevant cybersecurity regulations and standards, such as GDPR, HIPAA, or industry-specific guidelines.
- Security Awareness and Culture: Foster a culture of security within the organisation, where cyber security is everyone’s responsibility. Training and awareness are covered in detail in the sections above, but it can never be overstated the importance of organisation-wide acceptance of a culture of security.
- Continuous Improvement: Periodically review and update the cyber security strategy to adapt to evolving threats and technologies. The ongoing review and maintenance process is as critical as having the security strategy and policy in place due to the rapidly changing digital landscape.
- Incident Reporting and Communication: Is covered in detail in the sections above. Establishing clear procedures for reporting security incidents and communicating with stakeholders, both internal and external, will help mitigate the degree of impact of a security incident.
- Cybersecurity Insurance: Consider obtaining cyber security insurance to mitigate financial risks associated with data breaches and other cyber incidents.
- Redundancy and Failover: Implement redundancy and failover mechanisms to ensure business continuity in the event of a cyberattack or system failure. Having layers of systems in place will help quickly deal with some types of cyber security incidents allowing for the affected systems to be shut down and to switch to the redundant systems. Unfortunately, many breaches can “leak” into redundant systems and or impact core systems which the failover systems also access. It is still best practice to have redundancy and failover systems in place for multiple security and non-security reasons.
- Penetration Testing and Vulnerability Assessment: Regularly conducting penetration testing and vulnerability assessments to identify and remediating weaknesses in the security infrastructure is as critical as having all the strategies and policies in place. A key component of the role of security expert is to be up to date in the latest threats in the digital landscape, and by delivering penetration testing services to organisations they can test the organisation’s strategy and policy while strengthening their defences before a cybersecurity incident occurs.
Cyber security strategy should be a comprehensive and ongoing effort that requires a combination of technology, policies, procedures, and a commitment to staying vigilant in the face of evolving cyber threats. It is a strategy and policy that requires buy-in from all levels of the organisation and requires a dedicated leader to champion the initiatives and ensure all employees are onboard and undertaking best practice cyber security initiatives.
Why is it critical to include a cyber security expert when designing a security strategy and as an implementation partner?
Cyber security is a complex and ever-evolving field. A cyber security expert can help organisations stay ahead of the curve and protect themselves from the latest cyber threats. Including a cyber security expert in the design and implementation or an organisation’s cyber security strategy is critical for several key reasons:
- Expertise in the Threat Landscape: Cyber security experts have a deep understanding of the ever-evolving threat landscape. They are aware of current and emerging threats, vulnerabilities, and attack techniques. This knowledge is crucial in designing a strategy and policies that anticipates and defends against potential risks. Cyber security experts have the knowledge and experience to identify and assess potential cyber security risks and vulnerabilities in IT infrastructure, develop and implement effective cyber security controls, and respond to cyber security incidents to mitigate impact.
- Objectivity: Cyber security experts can provide an objective assessment of the organisation’s cyber security posture and identify areas where improvement is needed. They can also help in developing a cyber security strategy that is tailored to specific organisational needs and risks.
- Resources and Experience: Cyber security experts have access to the latest tools and technologies to help protect organisations from cyber threats. They have experience working with organisations of all sizes and industries. They help organisations to avoid common mistakes and implement best practices.
- Risk Assessment and Mitigation: Cyber security experts can conduct comprehensive risk assessments to identify an organisation’s unique vulnerabilities and assess the potential impact of security incidents. They can then design strategy updates that prioritise mitigating the identified risks.
- Compliance and Regulatory Knowledge: Many industries are subject to specific cyber security regulations and compliance requirements. Cyber security experts are well-versed in these regulations (e.g., GDPR, HIPAA, PCI DSS) and can ensure that the organisational cyber security strategy aligns with legal and regulatory obligations. They can help ensure that organisations comply with relevant laws, regulations, and industry standards. They can also help prepare for audits and assessments to demonstrate compliance.
- Tailored Security Solutions: Cyber security professionals can customise security solutions to specific organisational needs and challenges. They consider factors like the business’s industry, the nature of their data, and their technology stack.
- Best Practices: Cyber security experts are familiar with industry best practices and standards. They help organisations to adopt and implement these practices to effectively strengthen their security posture.
- Threat Detection and Incident Response: In addition to preventive measures, cyber security experts are skilled in setting up threat detection and incident response capabilities. They can develop protocols to identify and respond to security incidents promptly, minimising potential damage.
- Vendor Selection and Technology Integration: Cyber security experts can recommend and implement the right security tools and technologies that align with business strategy. They can assess the capabilities of various security vendors and ensure seamless integration of these solutions into the existing organisational infrastructure.
- Security Awareness and Training: They help design and implement security awareness training programs for employees, which is a crucial component of a holistic cyber security strategy.
- Cyber Security Culture: Cyber security experts can foster a culture of security within an organisation. They can promote the importance of security throughout the company, from the C-suite to front-line employees.
- Cost-Effective Solutions: By having an expert involved from the beginning, costly mistakes can be avoided and or the need to implement retroactive security measures. They can help organisations make informed decisions and allocate resources effectively. By identifying potential risks and vulnerabilities early on, cyber security experts help avoid costly security breaches and data loss. They can also help optimise the security budget by recommending cost-effective solutions that align with business needs and goals.
- Ongoing Strategy Adjustments: The threat landscape is continually evolving. Cyber security experts help organisations adapt their strategy as new threats and technologies emerge, ensuring that implemented security measures remain effective. Cyber security experts can help with continuous evaluation and improvement of the organisation’s security posture as the threat landscape evolves. They can also provide training and awareness programs to educate employees about the latest threats and best practices.
- Crisis Management: If a security incident occurs, a cyber security expert will guide an organisation through the crisis management process, helping to minimise damage and protect their reputation. Including the security expert in the design and deployment of security strategy and policies, ensures a faster more effective response during an incident.
The inclusion of a cyber security expert in the development of a security strategy and implementation process is essential for ensuring the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the organisation’s critical assets. Incorporating a cyber security expert into the design and implementation of the cyber security strategy is an investment in the overall security and resilience of the organisation. Their knowledge and experience are essential for proactively managing security risks and staying ahead of the evolving threat landscape.
In summary, a cyber security expert will:
- help to develop a comprehensive and tailored cyber security strategy;
- help you to implement effective cyber security controls;
- improve a cyber security incident’s response.
There is a lot of information in this article, but it should provide readers a good starting place for an organisation to seriously start planning for their cyber security requirements and procedures. The most effective way to develop a comprehensive and effective strategy is to include external professional support, in which Red Cursor is an industry leader.