How to Create a Successful Cybersecurity Strategy
Ever wondered what are the main elements of an effective cybersecurity strategy? In today’s article, I’m going to describe all the aspects that I consider mandatory in order to stay one step (or more) ahead of cybercriminals in an ever-evolving cyberthreat landscape.
What Is a Cybersecurity Strategy?
A cybersecurity strategy is an organizational plan designed to reduce cyber risks and protect its assets from cyber threats.
Typically, cybersecurity strategies are created with a three to five-year outlook, but, clearly, they should be regularly updated and reevaluated. As “living,” “breathing” documents, they must incorporate tools and best practices to address the evolving threat landscape and safeguard the company from both internal and external threats.
An efficient cyber security strategy focuses on the appropriate tools and procedures for proactively identifying, categorizing, and reducing cyber threats.
Why Do You Need a Cybersecurity Strategy?
I’ll be honest: you cannot afford not to have a strong cyber security strategy. Today, a major breach episode is more a question of “when” and “how serious” than of “if” in any company, with constant breaches, code leaks, and credential disclosures being reported practically daily – only in 2021, “the average number of cyberattacks and data breaches increased by 15.1% from the previous year.”
There is also the aspect of privacy regulations – you will be held legally liable for the damage brought on by a data breach if you didn’t take all reasonable precautions to secure your data and the data of your clients, and trust me, this is not how you want to spend money and time.
Therefore, the only way to build cyber resilience and safeguard your company from potentially devastating repercussions is to have a sound cybersecurity plan and not leave anything to chance.
10 Steps to Build an Effective Cybersecurity Strategy
The preliminary stage of building an effective cybersecurity strategy represents answering a few crucial questions:
What are my problems/ambitions?
Are you confronted with tedious tasks that occupy most of the time of your IT teams (manual patching, disorganized admin rights management)?
Do you find it difficult to attract, hire and retain cybersecurity professionals to help you define and maintain your company’s cybersecurity posture?
Are you concerned about the increasing number and rigor of compliance regulations and you’re not sure whether your company meets them all?
It’s important to know exactly what are your problems and what you want to achieve before starting to develop a successful strategy.
What are my resources?
Knowing what resources you can use in terms of people, tools and financial means, and what resources you need in order to achieve your goals is another crucial question you must answer before creating your cybersecurity strategy.
What does the market say?
To answer this preliminary question you must definitely keep an eye on what’s happening in the market and establish a list of priorities.
For example, for the following years Gartner predicts:
– more privacy regulations for consumers;
– the unification of cloud services and private applications into a single vendor SSE platform;
– standardization of Zero-Trust;
– new regulations for ransomware payments and negotiations;
– human casualties as cyberattacks aftermath.
Personally, I also expect to see:
– a much greater focus on ransomware prevention.
You must also pay attention to what the market has just started talking about, as emerging topics – cybersecurity vendors may already be developing products that can address many of the industry challenges and cyber threats and simplify your job even more.
Set your goals
After tackling all the preliminary aspects, setting cybersecurity business goals is the first step in building an effective cybersecurity strategy. You should set reasonable expectations by looking at your resources, timeline, budget and your company’s ability to execute.
Risk and assets inventory
The next step is to conduct a comprehensive inventory of all your digital assets, staff members, and vendors you work with.
Map your data, assets, and stack.
- Data categories can include public data, confidential data, internal use only data, intellectual property data, compliance restricted data.
- In terms of assets, you need to look at software, systems, users, identity.
- As for stack, make sure network configurations are available and updated, keep an eye on any contractors or third-party vendors who have access, and identify all offline and online network exit and entry points.
Cybersecurity frameworks’ role is to offer the architecture and techniques required to secure your company’s critical digital assets.
Basically, frameworks represent descriptions of all cybersecurity measures taken by an organization. They contain policies, objectives, and guidelines. They can be customized, however, to meet your specific business objectives. Moreover, the risk inventory mentioned earlier can help in selecting the best structure.
The most used cybersecurity frameworks are NIST CSF, ISO/IEC 27001, ISF and the PCDA Cycle:
The five main elements of the NIST CSF Framework are identification, protection, detection, response and recovery. The most popular framework available, NIST CSF, is actually mandatory for federal agencies.
Internationally recognized cybersecurity standard ISO/IEC 27001/27002, commonly known as ISO 27K, requires (assumes) that a company implementing ISO 27001 will have an information security management system (ISMS) in place.
Organizations must demonstrate to auditors that they are utilizing what ISO calls the “PDCA Cycle” in order to receive certification as ISO 27001-compliant.
ISF is a hands-on, business-focused guidebook that aids in identifying and managing IT risks in enterprises and supply chains. It focuses on recent and upcoming cyber threats and aids businesses in creating cyber security policies, norms, and methodologies.
The 4 steps of the PCDA cycle are planning (defining policies, objectives, processes, and procedures for risk management), doing (executing InfoSec policies, procedures, and other practices), checking (evaluating, monitoring, and measuring process performance in relation to policies and goals) and acting (implementing corrective and preventative measures in accordance with management evaluations and internal audits).
Security policies are crucial elements of an effective cybersecurity strategy. They represent a set of written practices and procedures that all employees are expected to respect in order to preserve the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data and resources.
Workstation policy, acceptable use policy and remote access policy are a few examples. You should also include:
- Password specifications;
- Minimum access permissions and zero-trust;
- IAM & credential management;
- Vulnerability management;
- Sensitive data protection;
- Tracking and identifying any suspicious activity.
Technology and automation
Technology automation and cybersecurity go hand in hand. In today’s world, there is simply no cybersecurity without automated technologies. By automatically programming security systems employing artificial intelligence and machine learning to automatically recognize such dangers, they significantly reduce the risk of cyberattacks.
Instead of just generating an alarm to notify a human security specialist to take measures, an automated cybersecurity system will detect a potential threat and eliminate it. Automated cybersecurity systems select the optimal actions to take in the case of an attack thanks to AI and machine learning.
Automation is used in cybersecurity to correlate data, create defenses faster than attacks can propagate, and identify infections that are already present in your network more quickly.
Incident response plan
An incident response plan describes all the steps that must be taken to prepare for, detect, contain and recover from a cyber security incident, along with all the procedures and responsibilities of the incident response team.
The main stages of an incident response plan are preparation, identification, containment, eradication, recovery and a review of the lessons learned – more info about them in one of our previous articles on incident response.
Although choosing a cybersecurity insurance provider can be quite challenging and complicated, I can assure you that it is absolutely necessary.
As Nationwide notes, “Cyber insurance generally covers your business’s liability for a data breach involving sensitive customer information, such as Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, account numbers, driver’s license numbers, and health records.”
Cyber insurance is often excluded from a general liability policy, which only covers bodily injuries and property damage resulting from your products, services, or operations.
What should you consider when choosing cyber insurance? Here are four essential steps:
- Analyze the attack surface and cyber hygiene risks of your architecture.
- Recognize your third-party risk and keep insurers in mind. They are a link in the value chain and a convenient target for cybercriminals.
- Be careful when selecting a supplier; brokers and insurers must be fully cognizant of their customers’ needs.
- Remember to automate whenever you can – it will help you in worst-case scenarios.
Provide security training
Regardless of your company’s size, whether it be a small company or a multinational enterprise, security awareness training is a mandatory component of an efficient cybersecurity plan.
Security awareness and training initiatives that are regularly planned and required can really streamline the implementation of security policies.
Make sure you create training programs that instruct your staff on how to spot social engineering and phishing red flags and what to do if they accidentally click on a bad link.
It’s crucial to continually assess your cybersecurity strategy after it has been planned and put into action.
As threat actors develop new attack techniques, vulnerabilities will never stop growing; so you must frequently evaluate and test your cybersecurity strategy to ensure that it keeps up with the evolving threat landscape. An annual risk assessment can assist in discovering and closing any vulnerabilities that can develop as security threats change.
How Can Heimdal® Help?
Well, on one hand, our amazing security consultants can offer you more details if you have any questions regarding how to build an effective cybersecurity strategy. All you have to do is send us a message or give us a call (+45 89 87 39 05).
On the other hand, naturally, you can count on us for the technology and automation part.
Our EDR and XDR/SOC services include all the components you need to have a powerful, layered defense: Threat Prevention, Patch and Asset Management, Next-Gen Antivirus, Ransomware Encryption Protection, Privileged Access Management, Application Control.
On top of that, our XDR/SOC service provides:
- Continuous monitoring, 24/7/365;
- Real-time alerting on phone or email in case of an infection or attack;
- False-positive handling, pre-incident assessment, “noise” reduction;
- Actionable advice on how to improve your security levels and policies;
- Policy settings inspection for maximum compliance.
Moreover, new first-class products will soon enhance the Heimdal portfolio, so I’m sure that a new era in cybersecurity is about to begin – can’t disclose more for now, so stay tuned!
By developing a strong cybersecurity strategy, you’re laying the foundation for a company that is ready to overcome present and future security threats.
It’s mandatory to remember and apply all the steps described:
- answer the preliminary questions;
- set your goals;
- make a risks and assets inventory;
- choose a security framework;
- develop and implement security policies;
- choose automated technologies as your ally;
- develop an incident response plan;
- select a cyber insurance policy;
- provide security training to all your employees;
- constantly evaluate and update the cybersecurity strategy.
Remember: an attacker only needs to be successful once to trigger an incident with major consequences.