When do most small business owners decide to implement a cybersecurity strategy and program? After a cybersecurity attack. While most headlines focus on large businesses and government entities, small businesses are equally vulnerable to phishing, malware and ransomware incidents. According to the Verizon 2020 Data Breach Investigation Report (DBIR), 28% of attacks were against small businesses. Waiting until you have a cybersecurity attack can be costly to your business in many ways. Building a strategy and program to protect your business assets is crucial to your business’s survival to prevent cyberattacks.
RISK ASSESSEMENT and analysis
The first step to building a cybersecurity strategy is to find out where you stand now. How secure is your business and what assets need protecting? The best way to do this if you don’t have your own Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), is to hire a trusted IT security services vendor to conduct the assessment for you. The cybersecurity risk assessment will inventory and assess your current security infrastructure and map it to a standardized Cybersecurity Framework. According to their website, “The NIST Cybersecurity Framework is widely used to help determine and address highest priority risks to your business, including standards, guidelines, controls and best practices.
determine your organizational risk appetite
Once you perform your risk assessment, your cybersecurity consultant will help you determine your next steps. They will review whether you should accept or mitigate the existing gaps in your cybersecurity plan. You will want to prioritize the identified risks and determine if you will accept, mitigate or transfer the risk. Accepting the risk means you determine the risk is not catastrophic and if it occurs, you can deal with the risk at that time. If you decide to mitigate the risk, you will need to invest in a strategy that protects you from that risk. A security system in your building is a tool for mitigating the risk. Your firewall or cybersecurity software tools will provide the same layer of protection for your IT infrastructure. Transferring the risk means you will let a third party handle the threat. While you may give up some level of control, you also delegate the details and costs involved with mitigating the risks yourself.
what are you protecting?
Most business owners understand customer information and business-related data are important assets to protect from cybersecurity attacks. Yet there are other assets critical to your business that are worthy of protection. For starters, your intellectual property and trade secrets used to develop products are essential to the future of your business. Brand and marketing plans are also confidential information that may be exposed by cyberattacks. What about your reputation? Often the news of a cyberattack and exposure of your customer data will harm your business reputation..
In addition to your internal assets, your business also needs to comply with different government regulations and requirements. You will need to determine what types of protections are required by mandates. Your payment systems will need to comply with PCI-DSS standards. If you are a medical professional, you need to protect your HIPAA-regulated personal health information. As a contractor with the federal government, you will need to comply with NIST-171, which governs the protection of unsecured government data by contractors and other organizations. If you work with the Department of Defense (DoD), you need to comply with CMMC certifications and standards. Understanding your regulatory compliance and reporting requirements will help you determine your overall cybersecurity protection strategy.
Implement A VULNERABILITY MANAGEMENT PROGRAM
Cybercriminals constantly seek new ways to gain access to IT systems using automated computer programs to find vulnerabilities. To stop the cyberattacks, you need to learn about and understand the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) to identify and remediate vulnerabilities and implement a remediation plan with milestones and timelines. A good vulnerability management process should continually scan for vulnerabilities, as they are introduced, as threats can quickly change. You will also want to track vulnerability metrics and KPIs to understand if they are trending up or down and to measure the overall effectiveness of the program. The goal is to reduce organizational risk.
Cyber attacks are launched by a variety of sources. Understanding what threats there are will help you implement your mitigation program. Threats are carried out by networks of criminals and hackers where financial gain is the primary motivation. Attacks are also initiated by nation-states, competitors and other third parties. However, not all attacks are external. Disgruntled or former employees often take advantage of their inside knowledge to attack their employers.
BUILD YOUR CYBERSECURITY PLAN
Creating and implementing your cybersecurity plan should be a top priority for your business. One way to secure organizational buy-in is by involving senior leadership on a cybersecurity committee. Include leaders of each business unit and function, including customer-facing departments, manufacturing, legal, financial and logistics. A cybersecurity consultant or expert needs to lead the initiative and take charge of the successive stages of the risk assessment, analysis and mitigation process. The expert will advise on adopting the Security Framework and develop the implementation timeline, plan of action and milestones.
Your cybersecurity assessment will identify high-risk items which require immediate remediation. These efforts may include replacing outdated or underutilized technologies already in place. It will also identify fundamental actions or technologies you will need to implement to close the door to cybersecurity attacks. If these mitigation efforts are extensive or out of your budget, then making quick fixes requiring little effort or resources will fill holes and give you a chance to focus on long-term priorities.
MANAGE, PROTECT, DETECT AND RESPOND
Your cybersecurity plan needs to protect your entire IT infrastructure. This includes stationary and mobile endpoints (PCs, laptops, smartphones and tablets), applications, data, assets, user and user accounts. Remote workforces require additional protection and your users and employees need to learn about phishing emails, password protection and other critical threats. Employee education can go a long way in preventing damaging cyberattacks.
Stopping threats means you need to identify and detect events before they happen. Many existing processes of identifying threats and creating protections against them are outdated. Modern threats must be detected in real-time to prevent damage before your security team can respond. Since cybercriminals use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to discover vulnerabilities, these tools are also the best defense. AI programs create profiles and look for similar behavior. Machine learning systems keep track of changes and learn over time by adjusting to new patterns and threats. When threats are detected, they are quarantined and remediated by automated systems.
INCIDENT RESPONSE PLAN
It might seem impossible to stop every cybersecurity attack, so you will need a plan to respond to attacks to contain the damage and eradicate the threat as quickly as possible. Around-the-clock monitoring by a dedicated security team may not seem affordable to handle with your internal team. Working with a cybersecurity consulting company to provide a cloud security solution will provide the protection you need at a reasonable cost. Your outsourced team will work with you to create a detailed response plan that includes regular vulnerability testing and plan revisions. Engaging a cybersecurity team on a retainer basis will ensure you have the protection and support you need in case of a breach or ransomware attack.
Measuring and Reporting Program Effectiveness
Managing a cybersecurity program requires constant analysis and reporting to keep up with current threats and vulnerabilities. Most professional cybersecurity consultants provide real-time dashboards for clients to monitor activity. Regular reports and updates will ensure businesses are well-protected and that their protection and remediation efforts are effective. If there are incidents, internal alerts will notify company management to take immediate action to protect business assets.
Incident Reporting and Compliance
In case of a breach or ransomware attack, government and industry regulators will require notification and reporting to ensure your customers, partners and vendors are aware of the data breach. Incident reporting is mandatory and businesses may face legal and civil penalties if they fail to file the required reports.
The cybersecurity program is an integral part of your business process. It is good practice to include the cybersecurity process in employee handbooks and manuals. Regular updates via company meetings, portals and newsletters are necessary to keep employees informed of new procedures, threats and remediation actions.
Consider Securing a Cybersecurity Insurance Policy
In the event of a cybersecurity incident, the cost to the business due to ransom demands, lost revenue and productivity can be substantial. A cybersecurity insurance policy will help protect your business by reducing the financial risk and providing legal and remediation support from the insurance company. Insurance companies might require a cybersecurity assessment and plan before underwriting your business. You should consult your cybersecurity professional to assist in this process.
Finding a Cybersecurity Solution Provider
Developing a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy and program is a complex and time-consuming process. It requires extensive knowledge of threats, vulnerabilities, technologies and regulations involved to keep your business safe. It is crucial that if your company does not have the internal resources available, you should seek a competent and proven IT Cybersecurity solutions partner with a proven track record of cybersecurity experience. Take time to interview several providers and require them to provide sample programs, lists of the technologies they use and provide current customer references.
Cotrucent Technologies is a solution provider with extensive cybersecurity experience you can turn to for valuable advice, program implementation and ongoing support. Visit our website or call us at 856-843-8000.