Cybersecurity is a top priority for most organizations operating in the digital economy, and it isn’t difficult to understand why. Cybersecurity events have skyrocketed in recent years, both as organizations have slowly deployed new digital technologies across their businesses and as companies have increasingly transitioned to hybrid work models in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The resulting creation of digital workplaces has opened new attack vectors that hackers have exploited for maximum gain, making the creation of a robust cybersecurity program essential for success. Enabling you to protect your reputation, conduct proper risk assessment and ensure regulatory compliance, a cybersecurity program enhances your overall security posture and makes your organization more resilient in the face of emerging threats.
Continue reading to learn more.
The importance of an effective cybersecurity program
The rapid advancement of technological innovation has made doing business easier and more efficient. The problem? It’s also opened new opportunities for hackers to penetrate systems and exfiltrate data. Cybersecurity incidents have been on the rise in recent years, but they have become a far bigger problem for organizations since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Business Wire, the number of organizations experiencing cybersecurity threats jumped 81%.
The growing concern around cybersecurity has made creating an effective cybersecurity program a critical priority for any organization with a cyber footprint. A cybersecurity program is the combination of security controls, procedures, teams and remedial plans an organization has in place to reduce cybersecurity risk and recover data in the event of an attack.
Here are some of the specific reasons you need a cybersecurity program:
- Protect your reputation: Business reputations in the digital economy depend on an organization’s ability to protect the personal data of its customers. By implementing a strong cybersecurity program, businesses demonstrate that they take their customers’ personal data seriously, helping to build trust and strengthen those relationships.
- Stay compliant: Regulatory agencies are responding to the growing cybersecurity threat by introducing new compliance regulations (and refining existing ones). An effective security program will include controls to ensure adherence to all relevant regulations, helping organizations avoid costly (and damaging) noncompliance investigations and fees.
- Coordinate cybersecurity efforts: Oftentimes, an organization’s cybersecurity strategy will be fragmented across different departments, leaving gaps in their security posture that creates vulnerabilities for hackers to exploit. A cohesive cybersecurity program ensures standardized alert detection, threat analysis and incident response across the entire organization.
- Mitigate third-party risk: Outsourcing operations to third-party vendors exposes firms to additional risk, which can be more difficult to identify and protect against. A well-developed cybersecurity program includes third-party security protocols and ensures third parties have the right controls in place to protect the organization’s sensitive data and mitigate risk exposure.
The 4 key components of a successful cybersecurity program
There are numerous ways to create an effective cybersecurity program, and security controls should always be matched to the specific requirements and needs of the organization. There are, however, a number of essential elements that should undergird any cybersecurity program.
- Business and data recovery plan: Sometimes the worst happens, despite the best efforts of the cybersecurity team to keep data safe. When it does, it’s critical organizations have plans in place to recover data and ensure business operations return to normal in the shortest amount of time possible. Organizations should keep regular data backups — preferably stored in an off-site location — to mitigate the data loss resulting from an attack.
- Cybersecurity training: People are an organization’s most important asset. That’s true for cybersecurity programs as well. Employees also represent an important cybersecurity risk, as hackers often exploit mistakes to penetrate systems. Conduct ongoing training sessions with employees on best practices to ensure they are doing everything they can to protect their account information on a daily basis.
- Relevant performance metrics: Cybersecurity programs are an investment, and while the ROI can be substantial, it’s important there are procedures in place to measure the impact and success of the cybersecurity program. Track metrics like mean time to detect (MTTD), intrusion attempts and mean time to contain (MTTC) to quantify the performance of your program.
- Ongoing monitoring: Cybercriminals are constantly developing their skills and capabilities. Organizations need to stay abreast of the latest emerging threats and constantly test their own security systems to better understand where new vulnerabilities exist. This helps them enhance and improve their security apparatus to stay protected against the changing threat landscape.
Steps to building a cybersecurity program
Here are the basic steps you should follow when crafting your cybersecurity program:
- Step 1 – Outline a cybersecurity vision: Cybersecurity programs require sufficient executive buy-in to be successful. Detail a clear vision that places the proposed cybersecurity program inside the broader digital journey of the organization to elucidate goal alignment.
- Step 2 – Conduct a risk assessment: Identify the malicious actors that might have an interest in penetrating your systems and stealing critical data. These could be amateur black-hat hackers all the way up to cyberterrorists.
- Step 3 – Identify relevant compliance regulations: An effective cybersecurity program will have to adhere to all relevant compliance regulations. These vary by industry, so it’s critical organizations understand which regulations are relevant to them and build controls that ensure proper compliance.
- Step 4 – Put the proper controls in place: Once you understand your cybersecurity goals and threat landscape, you need to identify the tools, procedures, personnel and software you need to invest in to develop the cybersecurity program you envision.
- Step 5 – Conduct ongoing gap analysis: Regularly test all technological solutions, governance procedures and security personnel to ensure cybersecurity policies are being properly implemented and identify any gaps that require further remediation.
Enhancing your cybersecurity program
Threats are constant and ever evolving. Regularly improving the cybersecurity program ensures it stays resilient against the latest threats. Here’s how:
1. Stay abreast of the latest cybersecurity developments
Cybercriminals are constantly evolving their capabilities, and the most secure networks don’t stay that way for long. It’s critical for organizations to understand (to the best of their ability) the latest developments in cybersecurity to not only know what types of attacks they’re most vulnerable to but also the security measures they should put in place to guard against them.
Of course, cybersecurity is varied and complex, and organizations should narrow their approach by considering the risks (and risk factors) that are most relevant to their organization, size and industry.
2. Don’t just be proactive; be reactive
It almost feels like a misnomer. After all, the best cybersecurity programs are the ones that prevent attacks from happening in the first place. While it’s critical to take every proactive measure you can to secure access points across your entire IT ecosystem, it’s equally important that you have plans in place in case an attacker does penetrate your networks.
Organizations should take the time to devise effective, comprehensive response plans to remediate any attack that occurs. These should not only include data recovery but also business continuity plans to ensure operations stay afloat in the event of an attack. Organizations also need to hire and train the appropriate security personnel to investigate security alerts and breaches and execute those remedial plans.
[Related Reading: Create a Comprehensive Cybersecurity Automated Incident Response Plan Before You Need It]
3. Invest in cloud application security
Cloud applications are better equipped to handle massive volumes of data and facilitate exchanges across vast and increasingly complex IT ecosystems. While that brings numerous benefits to organizations, it also creates new vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit.
Organizations should invest in cloud application security controls to mitigate some of the leading threats in cloud security — including account hijacking, insufficient access controls and outdated firewalls — to keep the data housed in their cloud infrastructure safe and secure.
Get the right team of professionals on your side
As organizations continue to transition to remote/hybrid work environments and malicious actors fine-tune their hacking capabilities, cybersecurity programs are becoming essential to business resilience in a digital economy. Unfortunately, many businesses don’t know where to start when crafting their cybersecurity program.
That’s why it’s important to have the right team of cybersecurity professionals on your side. Our team at Alert Logic consists of high-touch security experts that provide organizations with the tools, knowledge, skills, and expertise they need to safeguard their sensitive data at all hours of the day. We also work with them to develop customized incident response plans to activate in the event of an attack.
Request a demo today to start transforming your cybersecurity posture.