In today’s world businesses around the world as well as in Australia, face increasingly...
Cyber attacks have evolved dramatically over the years. Criminals now use incredibly advanced and sophisticated tools to carry out their unsavoury deeds. This has resulted in a rise in phishing attempts, ransomware, SQL injections, DoS attacks and more.
No longer can organisations simply set up a firewall or install an antivirus and consider it “done.” With the nature of attacks escalating, even the most well protected networks may still have vulnerabilities.
Considering that 61 percent of SMBs have experienced some sort of cyber attack within the last year, action clearly needs to be taken.
One of the best ways to go about this is to develop an effective cyber security strategy.
What Exactly is a Cyber Security Strategy?
This 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 an incident does occur and how you’ll respond.
Lastly, it recognizes 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.
Some of the key benefits are:
You Gain a Deeper Understanding of Your Risk
The average business attack surface has grown significantly in recent years. This is due to many factors including the prevalence of cloud computing, increased use of mobile devices, IoT, wearables, etc. So organisations have to be more diligent than ever.
A critical component of cyber security is understanding the threat landscape and knowing where vulnerabilities lie.
Developing a cyber security strategy allows you to better understand your current environment and profile so you know how your organisation stacks up. By identifying inadequacies and vulnerabilities, you’re able to make the necessary modifications to get to where you need to be.
While you can never eliminate threats entirely, this is a big part of reducing your risk.
It’s Inherently Proactive
It may sound pessimistic, but organisations need to plan for the worst. Being reactive rather than proactive is one of the main reasons why SMBs fall victim to attack.
Often there’s a false sense of security that “it’ll never happen to us” and cyber attackers only target large organisations. But this simply isn’t the case, and getting sucked into this type of mentality is just setting the stage for disaster.
A big part of a cyber security strategy’s potency lies in its proactivity. It inherently involves an “if” rather than a “when” mentality, where there’s perpetual monitoring and maintenance taking place.
Rather than waiting for cyber criminals to strike, this puts organisations in a position to stay ahead. Some specific ways this is achieved is with:
- Penetration testing – Includes web application, mobile app, network and infrastructure testing
- Security vulnerability scans – Looks for defects and misconfigurations that make a network susceptible to attack
- Business continuity planning – Accelerates recovery and reduces downtime
- Managed security – including active logging and monitoring of networks for security incidents
It Enables Early Detection
Early threat detection is one of the primary goals of all IT teams. With rapid advancement in cyber attacks, it’s all about having equally advanced defence mechanisms in place.
After all, the earlier you’re able to identify an anomaly such as malicious code in your database, the better your odds are of resolving it.
Cyber security strategy is advantageous because it provides a framework that’s naturally conducive to early detection. A set of ground rules and procedures combined with continuous monitoring helps catch anything out of the ordinary.
It Allows for a Swift Response
Smart organisations acknowledge that no one is 100 percent immune and accept that they won’t be able to thwart every single attack. Some will inevitably breach their defences.
If it can happen to major companies like Equifax, Facebook and Uber, it can happen to anyone.
Developing a cyber security strategy means planning on issues happening so that you’re prepared in the event of a successful cyber attack. If something does happen, you’ll know how to quickly react.
Each team member knows exactly what’s expected of them and how they should respond. With clear role definition, you’re able to effectively segregate duties so that everyone is held accountable. At the same time, it prevents an overlap of duties to avoid confusion and misunderstanding.
This ensures that you have the manpower and resources necessary to isolate and neutralize a threat. Whether it’s just a minor issue or a large-scale crisis, you’ll know how to respond without bringing unnecessary stress upon your team.
You’re Better Able to Meet Compliance Standards
Most modern companies must comply with relevant standards and regulations such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Failure to do so can result in fines and penalties as well as other setbacks such as diminished profitability and brand equity.
But on other hand, being compliant helps your organisation:
- - Maintain rigorous cyber security standards
- - Mitigate risks
- - Build trust among consumers
- - Stay competitive
Creating a cyber security strategy is a natural catalyst for compliance. A plan of action such as this inevitably helps your business stay on top of best practices and meet the standards within your industry.
You Can Deter Insider Threats
Would you believe that nearly 58 percent of all cyber attacks in 2017 originated with insiders?
It’s true. The majority of incidents occur from within and result from employees being privy to sensitive information.
Fortunately, cyber security strategy has an added plus in the form of deterring insider threats.
Just think about it. A strategy such as this means that your business takes an organised, systemised approach to security. There’s a level of coherence that simply wouldn’t be there otherwise. And you could even argue that security becomes ingrained in your culture.
When team members know that cyber security is a top priority and understand the initiatives you have in place to keep your company safe, it’s a natural deterrent for insider threats that works in your favor.
With comprehensive procedures in place and an underlying organisational awareness of how threats originate, anyone who may be tempted to engage in malicious behaviour will likely be persuaded not to. It’s just not worth the risk.
It Provides Optimal Operational Efficiency
For our final point, let’s take an overarching view of things and look at it from the macro level. By leveraging your cyber security strategy, it should positively impact the overall efficiency of your organisation.
For example, having an organised set of procedures in place and knowing how to effectively use security tools means that your team members can perform security-centric job functions with less friction. And this often translates into a higher return on IT investment.
This also means that you won’t have to spend an exorbitant amount of time focusing on security-related matters. When there’s a game plan in place, you’re able to execute these tasks in an orderly fashion.
That way your team members can do what needs to be done and get back to other things that don’t involve cyber security—like focusing on sales and growing your business.
Implementing Cyber Security By Design
By now we’ve established what cyber security strategy is and why it’s important. But what are some specific elements that go into a strategy?
We’ve found the “cyber security by design” framework to be ideal. It involves a five-step process with an ongoing focus on cyber security:
- Define – Arrive at the cyber security scope, current profile and target profile.
- Plan – Arrive at the implementation plan for the cyber security target profile.
- Execute – Execution of the implementation plan based on timeline, resource availability and approved budgets.
- Report – Conduct an annual cyber security assessment.
- Monitoring – Ongoing program to maintain and improve cyber security.
This strategy fulfills all of the critical requirements to heighten your company’s cyber security and maintain it long-term. It’s also quite practical.
Staying Ahead of the Curve
Businesses have a lot riding on cyber security.
Failing to address key areas and being lax about it is just asking for trouble. After all, cyber criminals will almost always take the path of least resistance and target the organisations that don’t take security seriously.
But developing a formal cyber security strategy is one of your best defences. Rather than haphazardly trying to prevent an attack, this is the ultimate means of organising and systemising your efforts.
It provides structure and clarity to help you beef up your existing security infrastructure and ensure that it’s always equipped to handle whatever new types of threats come your way.
And although you never know exactly what you’ll encounter, you’ll have peace of mind that you’ll be able to deal with it.