How To Develop A Strong Cybersecurity Strategy

Cyber attacks have become more and more frequent over the last few years, not only increasing in the number of incidents but also in their sophistication and ingenuity. Over the 2020-21 financial year, the ACSC discovered that there was an increase of 13% in cybercrime reports when compared to the prior year, receiving over 67500 reports from Australian businesses.

Cyber criminals have adopted more sophisticated methods to infiltrate and compromise a business’s systems and networks, one example is the steady increase in ransomware. The Australian Cyber Security Centre or ACSC recorded a 15 per cent increase in ransomware cybercrime reports in the 2020–21 financial year. 

The increase in ransomware, phishing and other types of cyber attacks has emphasised the need and importance of a cybersecurity strategy for all businesses. This article will help you understand how your business can get started with developing a strong cybersecurity strategy. 

 

What is a cybersecurity strategy? 

A cybersecurity strategy is a plan of action designed to maximise the security and resiliency of your organisation. It uses a top-down approach to establish a set of objectives and protocols to help keep you safe.

It outlines the duties of individuals within your organisation and defines who’s responsible for what. This type of strategy also addresses what will take place in the event that a security incident occurs and what the best response should be. 

Lastly, it recognises the fact that cyber threats are continually advancing and devises ways to adapt so that you’re always improving your security. When done correctly, a cyber security strategy will align with strategic business goals so that everything works together holistically to make your company more efficient.



Why is a cybersecurity strategy important? 

Cyber attacks can have devastating impacts on a business, ranging from financial losses, operational hold-ups, reputational damage, legal and regulatory blowback and even the risk of the business shutting down permanently. A strong cybersecurity strategy greatly lowers the chances that your business will fall prey to a cyber criminal and mitigates the above repercussions if a security incident were to occur. A cybersecurity strategy is a proactive approach to dealing with cyber threats, whereas an absence of one increases the chances of your business becoming a victim to a cyber attack or data breach. 



How do you develop a strong cybersecurity strategy?

Below are seven key steps that can be used as a basis when building a strong cybersecurity strategy and why it is important to include an Incident Response plan:

 

Step 1: Perform a security risk assessment 

 

A cybersecurity risk assessment is designed to get a detailed view of the possible cyber threats to your business, and your capabilities to manage the associated risks. The range of threats varies across businesses, so an in-depth risk assessment becomes the first and key step in understanding the gaps and vulnerabilities in your existing policies and procedures.  Other than understanding your own risk profile, risk assessments can help in identifying third and fourth-party risks, which is a crucial part of the journey in getting secure. 

Apart from understanding overall risk, a security risk assessment can help businesses identify, classify and map their data and information assets on the basis of their value. This allows businesses to prioritise and allocate resources accordingly to ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of cybersecurity measures implemented.  

Without a thorough risk assessment in place, your business might not discover where the challenges lie, and what aspects of cybersecurity to prioritise and invest in, to prevent disruption.



Step 2: Define and establish security goals 

 

An important step in building a cybersecurity strategy is to ensure that it is congruent with your larger business goals. The way this can be done is by defining security goals that align with and do not compromise the goals of your business. Creating security goals can be challenging however the process can be simplified if the following questions are asked.

Q1. What is your organisation’s maturity level? 

Understanding your current cybersecurity capability can help with defining security goals, by reviewing the current security architecture of your business and reviewing security incidents that have occurred in the past, you can gain an understanding of your current maturity level when it comes to cybersecurity. The Australian Cyber Security Centre has a framework called the Essential Eight Maturity Model that helps organisations identify a target maturity level that is suitable for their environment.

Q2. What is your organisation’s risk appetite? 

Security risk appetite is the expectations from the senior management of a business regarding their security risk tolerance. These criteria help an organisation identify security risks and prepare appropriate treatments and provide a benchmark against which the success of mitigations can be measured. Identifying security risk appetite can help determine how and where cyber security should be prioritised, thus making it easier to arrive at realistic and achievable security goals.

Q3. Are these goals realistic and achievable? 

When defining security goals it is important to ensure that the goals are realistic and achievable. When setting goals factors like the following should be taken into consideration; your organisation’s resources, the given timeline to achieve a certain level of cybersecurity maturity, the budget available and the skill and expertise available. 



Step 3: Assess the level of your technology against Industry best practices

 

An essential part of developing a cybersecurity strategy is evaluating technology to see if it meets current best practices. With the rapid development of the tactics, techniques and procedures of malicious actors, the technology in an organisation is required to be up to date with the latest patches and security updates. Having technology that is outdated leaves a business vulnerable to cyber attacks, for example, systems that are no longer receiving updates leave a network open to compromise as attackers find it easy to enter. 

Once the technology is upgraded to match industry standards, it is important to ensure that there are resources available and dedicated to maintaining and supporting the technology within the business. For example, during a zero-day attack, it is essential that resources are ready and available to respond to the threat and mitigate any risks that arise. 

 

Step 4: Choosing a cybersecurity framework

 

A cybersecurity framework is, essentially, a system of standards, guidelines, and best practices to manage risks that arise in the digital world. There are several cybersecurity frameworks a business can choose to help guide its overall cybersecurity strategy. Depending on the type of your business, some frameworks may require mandatory to comply e.g. the PCI DSS framework is essential for merchants that handle and store cardholder data and non-compliance may lead to legal repercussions. 



Step 5: Review existing security policies and create new ones

 

A security policy is a document that states in writing how a company plans to protect its physical and information technology assets. They should be amended to reflect any changes in technology, vulnerabilities and security requirements. Part of this step is to review existing security policies and create new ones that were missing and are now needed. For example, one of the biggest cybersecurity risks is an organisation's own employees, negligent behaviour is a common cause of data breaches. For example, security policies that address appropriate password and privileged identity access management are essential to informing and upholding employees to a high information security standard.  

These security policies need to be enforceable and every employee in an organisation needs to be held accountable for information security. Regularly scheduled and mandated security training and awareness programs can help enforce these policies.



Step 6: Risk management 

 

An important part of creating a cybersecurity strategy is preparing for the worst, however strong your cybersecurity measures are, there is still a chance that your business falls prey to a cyber attack or data breach. Identifying the potential risks to your organisation’s information security beforehand is a good way to mitigate the repercussions associated with an attack. As part of your risk management plan, the following policies can be implemented to ensure that your organisation is adopting a proactive approach toward their cybersecurity: 

 

  • Data privacy policy - outlines how corporate data should be handled and secured properly
  • Data protection policy - covers how the sensitive data belonging to customers, employees, suppliers and other third/fourth parties should be handled
  • Retention policy - details where data should be stored and for how long 
  • Incident response plan - outlines in detail the steps that need to be taken in the event of a security incident

 

Step 7: Implementation & Evaluation 

 

Now that your cybersecurity strategy has been planned out and policies have been created, it is time for implementation. Once the cybersecurity strategy has been implemented by your information security or project management team, it is important to recognise the need for continued support and evaluation. Vulnerabilities will continue to evolve as threat actors discover new methods of attack, therefore your cybersecurity strategy needs to be continuously monitored and tested to make sure it matches the existing threat environment. 

As upholding the cybersecurity strategy is the responsibility of the entire organisation it is important that key stakeholders are identified and held accountable for oversight. In addition to this, an annual risk assessment can help identify and fill in any gaps that may grow as threats evolve. Feedback received from both internal and external stakeholders can be a good way of receiving insight on how to best improve an existing cybersecurity strategy. 



How can StickmanCyber help? 

Still not sure how to create a cybersecurity strategy or lack the internal resources to get started? Let our cybersecurity experts help. Get a dedicated, outsourced CISO to strategise, manage and optimise your cybersecurity strategy. Contact our team at StickmanCyber to learn more today.





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