How to Build a Winning Cybersecurity Program

Mad Security Building A Winning Cybersecurity Program

By: MAD Security

When most people think of cybersecurity, they only think about keeping viruses off their computers. Everyone wants to protect against the latest malware or ransomware that’s wreaking havoc across the globe.

However, as a cyber security professional, you understand that your efforts should be about more than just computers and software. Suppose your organization doesn’t have an involved and relevant cybersecurity strategy. In that case, you can be sure that hackers are looking for holes in your defenses to exploit them.

For this reason, it is more important than ever before to be able to protect a company’s data and information. Fortunately for you, we will explain in-depth how to create an air-tight cybersecurity plan that you can scale for any size company.

Gain Executive Buy-In

The first step in the process of creating a worthwhile security plan is to gain executive buy-in. Since creating a cybersecurity plan for your business requires a substantial investment, executive buy-in will be crucial to getting the funds needed for this project. We also would like to mention that when you have exec buy-in on something like cybersecurity and safety it really helps in grain that in company culture. The incentive trickles down and helps get everyone on board in the long run.

For your pitch you need to determine if your cybersecurity intention is security-focused or compliance-driven. This distinction will help guide the rest of the implementation and affects how you will implement cybersecurity in your company culture. Once you build the company’s security mindset it will be easier to implement and execute cybersecurity tasks. Here are some tips to help you tailor your messaging:

 

Change Your Perspective

Use their language instead of talking tools and technologies. You have to speak to the real benefit of the program.

Showcase The Benefit They Want To See

Identify the top 2 to 3 priorities and tie to the importance of the program in meeting those priorities such as safeguarding intellectual property.

Be An Enabler, Not An Enforcer

Present and message to enable the business not disable or be a roadblock, show how the program actually better enable the business to accomplish the mission

 

In general, buy-in focus should be security first, with compliance as a by-product as all concise cybersecurity programs are constructed to the highest industry standards.

 

Assign Responsibility

Once you have secured executive buy-in, you need to break down and assign responsibilities. Since an effective cybersecurity program is a network of consistent tasks and procedures it makes sense to delve out operational cybersecurity duties. Teamwork really makes the dream work. To optimize the organization of this step, you should implement RACI Charts (“Responsibility, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed”) as these are a great project management tool for complex projects such as this.

 

Determine Cyber Threats…And Vulnerabilities

When creating your tailored cybersecurity plan knowing exactly what threats and vulnerabilities your business has is of uppermost importance. This directly shapes what protection procedures should be implemented and how. Tabletop exercises can help to better understand the threats and organizations preparedness to mitigate these business specific threats and common threats like ransomware, phishing or social engineering.

A key point is to really understand the difference between a cybersecurity threat and vulnerability as this gets misconstrued all the time. This difference is explained in depth over at GeeksForGeeks but we will give a general overview here.

Cybersecurity Threat – an malicious or unintentional act that causes theft or damage of data (data breach) and in some cases, decomposition of the network/system.

Cybersecurity Vulnerability – this term encompasses outdated firewalls, poorly configured applications, or employees that can fall victim to social engineering. Basically anything that can be used to cybercriminals’ advantage to take action on a threat.

 

Develop a Risk Management Plan and Choose a Risk Management Framework

The risk management plan should start with a list of assets and threats that apply to those assets. You can then perform a qualitative risk assessment with this information. The results of this risk assessment can then be used to select a security framework that aligns with the business objectives, risk, and regulatory requirements.

Suppose your security framework isn’t mandated for your industry. In that case, we have a few suggestions on what frameworks uphold high cybersecurity risk management standards.

ISO 27000 Series

The ISO 27000 Series has 60 standards covering a broad spectrum of information security issues, for example:

  • ISO 27018 addresses cloud computing.
  • ISO 27031 provides guidance on IT disaster recovery programs and related activities.
  • ISO 27037 addresses the collection and protection of digital evidence.
  • ISO 27040 addresses storage security.
  • ISO 27799 defines information security in healthcare, which is useful for companies that require HIPAA compliance.

NIST Risk Management Framework 

NIST has developed an extensive library of IT standards focusing on information security. The NIST framework breaks down the framework into seven steps:

  1. PREPARE Essential activities to prepare the organization to manage security and privacy risks 
  2. CATEGORIZE the system and information processed, stored, and transmitted based on an impact analysis
  3. SELECT the set of NIST SP 800-53 controls to protect the system based on risk assessment(s)
  4. IMPLEMENT the controls and document how controls are deployed
  5. ASSESS to determine if the controls are in place, operating as intended, and producing the desired results
  6. AUTHORIZE Senior official makes a risk-based decision to authorize the system (to operate)
  7. MONITOR Continuously monitor control implementation and risks to the system

These are just a few of the possible frameworks that you can choose to implement your cybersecurity program. With research and guidance, we can help you choose what would work best for your organization’s goals. In the event that plans or policies do not match a framework, the framework should be chosen and a gap assessment performed before adjusting policies or plans.

 

Conduct a Gap Assessment

Now that you have selected your desired framework, you should do a gap assessment to identify how far away you are from the industry’s best standards.

  1. Evaluate People And Processes

Here, your cybersecurity professionals collect information in areas such as your company’s IT infrastructure, applications, security standards, and personnel. Your security professionals can identify areas that are susceptible to threats, breaches and fall short of your chosen framework.

  1. Data Gathering And Analysis

The phase of gathering data follows. Comparison tests of your organization’s security controls are conducted. You can assess your technical controls, including network applications, server applications, and security controls, using frameworks like NIST and ISO 27001. 

With the help of this cybersecurity gap analysis stage, you can see how complete your security measures are in the event of a breach. It also aids in determining whether your system’s implementation has any flaws. It is one of the essential steps in determining and validating the security procedures most appropriate for your firm.

  1. GAP Analysis

The gap analysis stage comes last. Your security controls are consolidated during the gap analysis stage, and the results indicate where your defenses are weak and where they are strong. The result is a gap analysis report with suggestions on how to proceed in areas like staffing requirements, technical evaluations, and the timeline for putting better security measures into place. 

 

Document Plans of Action and Milestones (POA&M)

There are many ways that you could identify deficiencies in your cybersecurity plan. The most common is for an internal review or an external auditor to identify weaknesses in your security posture during an inspection. 

On the other hand, organizations with more mature security programs will continuously monitor their security controls’ efficacy. In doing so, they often discover that some authorities are no longer fully adequate. Whatever the case, you must track these weaknesses in your POA&M document. You will address each weakness with specific corrective actions.

NIST’s sample POA&M template can help your organization start tracking the corrective actions needed to secure your information systems. As you go through the template, remember to record real-world risks to your business and develop ways to mitigate them.

 

Maintain Continuous Monitoring

Every day, there are new dangers and vulnerabilities, so keeping an eye out for rogue devices, outdated software, and inadequate configuration settings is essential. Two options are building out your security operations center or signing a contract with a managed security service provider (MSSP) that can offer you ongoing monitoring for vulnerabilities and incursions. If you decide to outsource the services, confirm that the MSSP complies with the controls of your preferred compliance framework.

 

Build A Winning Cybersecurity Plan With Mad Security

As with any program, you need a solid framework for your cybersecurity program that is based on the organization’s business activities and critical components. You also must have a contractor that can help you manage and implement your cybersecurity program as well as ongoing testing, training, and awareness. As leaders in the security industry, we would be happy to help you and your organization embark on the long journey to cyber safety and help develop your tailored security program.
For more information about our services, contact us online.

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