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Considering that, according to the Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report, there were more than 53,000 cybersecurity incidents and 2,200 confirmed data breaches, it is obvious that cybercrime is still on the rise.
So, every business, no matter how large or small, needs to develop a cybersecurity program to counteract the endless stream of cyber threats that they face. No business is too small to be a target, nor is any business too big to be unaffected by an attack.
Small businesses are especially susceptible because they lack the resources that larger businesses have to weather an attack on their network. In fact, according to statistics cited by Inc.com, “Almost 50 percent of small businesses have experienced a cyber attack” and “60 percent of hacked small and medium-sized businesses go out of business after six months.”
Creating a robust cybersecurity program that can address the majority of the threats you’ll face can be difficult. So, to help you out, we’ve created a list of cybersecurity program development tips that you can follow when establishing your security protocols and infrastructure.
1) Treat Your Security Program Guide as a “Living Document”
The thing about cybersecurity is that it is constantly evolving as the threats businesses face change. Cybercriminals are endlessly creating new attack methods and tools to try and compromise your company’s data.
So, your cybersecurity program should never be considered a “one and done” solution. As time progresses, you’ll need to continuously revisit your security program development documents to make modifications that take into account the latest threats and attack strategies. In this way, your security program guide will be a “living document” that changes and grows over time.
2) Conduct a Thorough Audit of Your Cybersecurity Assets and Policies
Before you can start creating a cybersecurity program, you first need to know what assets need protection. Trying to protect your business’ information assets without conducting an audit is like trying to catch an incoming fastball with your eyes closed—you might be able to intercept the ball, but odds are good that you’re going to get hurt.
Rather than going in blind, it’s better to first assess all of the IT assets your company has on its network. And, this goes for more than just the physical devices. You also need to know what kind of software programs each of the assets on your network runs so you can make sure they’re appropriately patched later on.
In addition to auditing your cybersecurity assets, it’s important to review your company’s cybersecurity policies and make adjustments as needed.
For example, consider whether or not Bill from sales really needs access to all of your company’s customer files and transaction records (he probably doesn’t). Instead of giving unrestricted access to all of your company’s data to every employee, consider applying a policy of least privilege so that each person has access to the minimum amount of data they need. This way, if their account is abused or compromised, the damage can be minimized.
Other policies to review include how employees access their user accounts—what kinds of authentication systems are in place? What are your company’s password policies? And, how often do employees have to refresh their logins?
If these policies are too cumbersome, employees may try to find ways to circumvent them, but if they’re too lax, then cybercriminals may be able to exploit employee logins more easily.
3) Define Your Cybersecurity Maturity Target
Just how much protection do you want your cybersecurity program to provide once it’s developed? Your answer to this question will help you define what your cybersecurity maturity target is.
Where the audits of the previous tip give you an idea of where you’re at, defining a cybersecurity maturity target lets you know where you want to be and how much work it will take to get there.
Different organizations define their maturity targets in different ways. So, the specifics of your maturity target may vary from those of another organization. With that in mind, some example maturity targets could be:
- Highly Mature. Here, almost everyone in the organization is aware of the latest cybersecurity practices and threats. Additionally, the organization’s network will have strong, multi-layered defenses that are built to thwart the most aggressive of insider and outsider threats. Policies for recovering from an attack are also in place—including the formation of an IT security team to specifically deal with intrusion attempts and manage the organization’s cybersecurity measures.
- Moderately Mature. Most employees are cognizant of basic cybersecurity procedures and risks. The organization has some anti-intrusion measures, such as perimeter firewalls, routine software vulnerability patch scheduling, and intrusion detection systems (IDSs). IT security teams are small in size or have limited resources. Post-attack recovery strategies may still be in development, such as rudimentary data backup to preserve the company’s most critical information assets.
- Low Maturity. Here, few—if any—employees have training in dealing with cybersecurity threats. If there are any cybersecurity policies in place, they’re not well-known to employees. IT security measures are very basic—limited to things like basic antivirus programs on individual computers. There may not be any personnel dedicated to managing cybersecurity in the organization, and little to no resources for recovering from an attack.
The closer an organization is to the “low maturity” end of the scale, the more at risk they are of not only getting attacked successfully, but of suffering extreme loss because of such attacks. Unfortunately, all too many businesses are at the “low maturity” end of the spectrum.
While the idea is to shoot for the “highly mature” level of security, not all organizations can easily afford the resources such a level of cybersecurity often demands—at least, not if they do everything internally. Many organizations can benefit from at least reaching for the “moderately mature” level to thwart the most common attack strategies and meet their respective industry’s regulatory compliance standards.
4) Building an IT Security Team
Any successful cybersecurity program will need personnel to implement and oversee it. This is where building an IT security team becomes necessary.
Having a dedicated team of professionals to oversee the implementation of your security strategy and to enforce security rules can do wonders for ensuring that your employees understand and follow your company’s security policies. Additionally, your security team can help you identify and resolve intrusion attempts to minimize the risk that your company’s data will be lost or corrupted.
However, building a large team of cybersecurity experts can be incredibly time-consuming and expensive. It isn’t uncommon for an experienced security pro to have an annual salary that exceeds $100,000/year, and you’ll need multiple such people to create a robust security team to tackle the threats that your business faces 24/7.
When building your security team, consider the following:
- How Large Does My Team Have to Be? Not every business needs a staff of dozens of cybersecurity experts. Consider both your organization’s size and the strictness of the industry regulations you face (such as HIPAA or PCI). Smaller businesses with less strenuous regulatory burdens can benefit from using smaller teams. However, larger businesses with more assets to manage and stricter regulations may need a bigger team.
- What Specific Skills Does My Team Require? Not all cybersecurity experts are created equal. There are a few different specializations within the cybersecurity industry, and you’ll want to make sure that the personnel you add to your security team have the right skills to match your needs—whether those skills are with a particular type of security tool or in dealing with specific kinds of cyber threats.
- What Resources Can I Provide My Security Team? They may say that “it’s a poor craftsman who blames his tools,” but you can’t exactly give a sculptor a toothpick and expect them to make Mt. Rushmore. When forming your cybersecurity team, consider what tools and information you’re able to provide them with, and what they’ll need to get the job done. The more resources you can supply to your cybersecurity team, the more effective they can be.
There is a way to simplify the process of building your IT security team. Rather than building your team out internally, you can use a managed security provider to get the services of a full-sized team for a fraction of the cost of hiring internally.
In this case, you’ll still need to provide information and resources, but it will be far easier and less costly. Plus, if there are any glaring gaps or omissions in your security program development, an experienced cybersecurity services provider can usually spot them and notify you of how to best fix such gaps.
The tips listed above can all be critical components of your cybersecurity program development. However, cybersecurity is a massively complex issue, and the above points only cover a fraction of the things that go into protecting your business online.
If you need any help building your cybersecurity program for your business, please contact us today! You don’t have to go through all of the setup to protect your business alone!