5 Steps to Defining Your Data Security Strategy

February 20, 2018 Eric Dosal Eric Dosal

For businesses of all sizes, data security (or cybersecurity, information security, etc.) is an ever-present concern. Yet, too few companies have a reliable data security strategy in place. In fact, according to data cited by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC):

“One recent survey of 400 small firms found that 27 percent of them have no cybersecurity protocols at all, and that a similar number of firms have difficulty implementing even the most rudimentary cyber defenses… Another survey found that most SMBs fail to respond appropriately to successful attacks. Specifically, this survey found that 60 percent of the surveyed SMBs did nothing to buttress their security protocols in the wake of a breach.”

With new cybersecurity threats constantly being developed by countless malicious actors around the world—and these malicious entities continuing to target businesses of all sizes—there is a good reason for companies to create strong data security strategies and to work on improving whatever security measures they have.

But, how can your company define a strong cybersecurity strategy? One that addresses all of the basic needs of your organization’s data security before, during, and after an attack?

Here are a few steps to get you started:

1) Identify ALL of the IT Assets in Your Network

The first step in forming any kind of defense strategy is to know what all of the resources are that you need to protect. As such, you’ll need to thoroughly inventory every device on your network—whether they’re printers, workstations, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, smartphones, etc. You should also inventory any third-party systems that exist in your third-party partner’s networks because these devices could be used to get into your network.

Once you have an inventory of every internet-connected device in your business, you also need to know what software/firmware those devices are running—i.e. operating systems such as Windows, Mac, or Linux. This info is crucial for knowing what needs patching and when.

Also, consider setting up a strategy for changing out your assets to reduce complexity by making sure most of your assets have compatible operating systems—this can make it easier to track security patches and updates.

2) Assess Your Risks

Now that you know what’s on your network, it’s time to assess how much risk each of the devices and platforms on the network poses so you can prioritize them as necessary.

This risk assessment should consist of several steps, including:

  1. Characterizing the System (Process, Application, Function)
  2. Identifying Threats
  3. Determining Risk and Impact
  4. Analyzing the control Environment
  5. Determining likelihood rating
  6. Calculating the risk rating

After identifying all of the risks facing your organization, you can start to prioritize them based on severity and ease of remediation. This way, you can close the biggest gaps in your cybersecurity posture as quickly as possible.

3) Set Up Policies for Managing Information Access

One of the biggest data security risks in any organization is the users who are in your organization—whether it’s because they’ve abused their access privileges, accidentally shared data with the wrong people, or had their user account details compromised in a phishing attack.

As such, it’s important to make sure that your organization has classified all of the data it’s managing, set up a series of controls and tools for managing access to that data, and applied a policy of least privilege for accessing data.

By limiting data access to the bare minimum needed for each user to perform their job function, you can reduce the amount of damage that can be done if that account is used illicitly.

4) Create a Plan for Responding to a Data Security Incident

No business is 100% immune to data breaches, even with a robust set of security controls in place. As such, an important part of any security strategy is to create a plan for responding to a breach.

Your business’ plan may need to be adjusted based on the nature of the incident and the resources you have available, but a basic outline would be:

  1. Identify
  2. Contain
  3. Eradicate
  4. Recover
  5. Study
  6. Prepare (for the next attack)

An intrusion detection system (IDS) is key for identifying a data security event, so part of preparing for these events would be to acquire and deploy an IDS in the first place.

5) Assigning Responsibility for Specific Security Strategy Elements

Who in your organization will be responsible for implementing your data security strategy? If an incident occurs, who will be responsible for identifying, containing, and eradicating the breach?

A key part of any security strategy is to create a list of responsibilities for each part of the plan and assign specific responsibilities. This way, everyone knows what’s expected of them before, during, and after a security incident.

In addition to assigning roles and responsibilities for people to manage key parts of the security strategy, it’s important to provide training so that everyone knows how to execute their responsibilities.

Supplementing Your IT Security Staff

While not always strictly necessary, many businesses choose to supplement their IT security staff by using third-party cybersecurity partner companies. These companies have dedicated cybersecurity experts on staff that can help bolster their partners’ cybersecurity posture for as long as needed.

Sometimes, these partners are used on a temporary basis, filling a need for experienced IT security personnel while the company trains an internal team of experts to take over.

In other cases, the company may leverage a third-party cybersecurity company long-term. Here, the company leverages the ability of the third-party partner to provide a full team of experts for a fraction of the cost of hiring a full-time, comparably skilled and sized team internally. This frees up resources for companies on a tight budget without having to sacrifice the quality of protection.

Need help setting up your own data security strategy? If so, please contact us! Compuquip Cybersecurity Solutions is here to help your business minimize its cybersecurity risks.

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