Why is Cybersecurity Important?
In today's fast-paced digital landscape, the need for robust cybersecurity measures is more important than ever. From large corporations to small businesses, every organisation is vulnerable to cyber threats that can compromise sensitive data and financial stability. To protect against these threats, it is crucial that organisations implement a comprehensive set of cybersecurity policies. In case of a breach, organisations must have a response and recovery plan. Neglecting cybersecurity can lead to consequences like the loss of revenue, damage to reputation, and legal liability, making it a critical area of focus for organisations.
In late 2020 and early 2021, SolarWinds, a leading IT management software provider suffered a cyberattack. It was a major breach that affected many organisations, including government agencies and Fortune 500 companies. The attackers infiltrated the software supply chain of SolarWinds and gained extensive access to sensitive information and systems. The incident serves as a reminder that no organisation is immune to cyber threats, and the importance of having robust cybersecurity policies in place to protect against these risks.According to the Allianz Risk Barometer 2023, Cyber incidents such as IT outages, ransomware attacks, or data breaches, rank as the most important risk globally in 2023, for the second year in a row.
Here is a step-by-step approach that every organisation must follow to have a more robust cyber risk management in place:
- Establish Security Governance
- Develop and Manage Policies
- Initiate Cyber Awareness and Education
- Conduct Regular Risk Assessments
- Implement Basic Security Policies
- Enable Identity and Access Management (IAM)
- Encrypt Sensitive Data
- Manage Vulnerabilities
- Implement Network Segmentation
- Enable Security Monitoring
- Test and Evaluate Security Measures
- Establish Incident Response Management
- Establish Business Continuity Management
1. Establish Security Governance
Security governance refers to the management and oversight of an organisation's information security practices. It involves defining roles and responsibilities, establishing policies and procedures, and setting up a governance structure to ensure that cybersecurity efforts are aligned with the organisation's objectives and goals. To establish security governance, organisations should:
- Designate an individual with responsibility for cybersecurity.
- Create a security steering committee, made up of key stakeholders from various departments, to provide guidance and support to the person with the responsibility of cybersecurity.
- Develop and publish security policies.
- Establish a framework for managing and reporting on cybersecurity risks, incidents, and compliance.
- Regularly review and update security policies and procedures to keep pace with changing threats and technology.
2. Develop and Manage Policies
Develop security policies that define the rules for accessing IT resources in the organisation. Take the following steps to ensure that your policies are effective:
- Consult with relevant stakeholders, including senior management, operational risk managers, and security specialists.
- Identify and assess potential cyber threats.
- Ensure policy aligns with organisational culture.
- Effective communication and enforcement of policies to all employees.
- Ensure that policies are consistently enforced and that any violations are addressed on time. Regularly review and update policies.
3. Initiate Cyber Awareness and Education
Regularly carry out the process of educating employees and stakeholders about the importance of cybersecurity, the potential threats and risks, and best practices to stay safe online. It is a critical component of an effective cybersecurity program and is crucial to building a secure and resilient organisation. To start this process, organisations should:
- Develop a cyber awareness training program involving regular sessions and workshops.
- Incorporate cybersecurity training into the onboarding process for new employees.
- Tailor the content of the training for your target audience and keep it easy to understand.
- Provide guidance and support for employees to follow best practices for cyber safety in their day-to-day work.
- Measure the effectiveness of the training program by regularly assessing employee understanding. In case of any cyberattack, run alerts in real-time to prevent the spread of these attacks within the organisation.
4. Conduct Regular Risk Assessments
Identify and assess the potential risks posed to the organisation's information systems, data, and business operations, by conducting regular risk assessments. These assessments help organisations stay ahead of potential threats and take proactive measures to prevent cyber incidents.
The best practices for conducting risk assessments include:
- Identify the organisation's critical assets such as financial information or personal data and prioritize them in order of sensitivity.
- Determine the probability and impact of potential risks.
- Establish a framework for evaluating the risk level of each asset.
- Conduct regular assessments to track changes in risk levels.
- Document the results of each assessment and track progress in risk mitigation efforts. Incorporate the results of the assessments into the organisation's security plan and make necessary updates to policies and procedures.
5. Implement Essential Security Policies
To protect your organisation from costly data breaches, it's crucial to implement basic security policies. IBM reported that the average time to detect a breach in 2020 was 207 days, with an average cost of $3.86 million. To avoid such security losses, your organisation should implement the following policies:
Patch Management – A patch is a modification made to the existing code of the software. Patch systems, with externally facing systems patched at least once a week and internally facing systems once a month.
Network security policy - Define the network security environment using firewalls, internet proxies, and network segmentation to separate untrusted areas from those hosting valuable information.
Anti-malware policy - Establish anti-malware protection at the host and network level, restrict removable media device use, enforce encryption, and scan for malware.
Secure configuration - Configure operating systems and software to minimize vulnerabilities and provide only necessary services, reducing attack surfaces.
Remote access policy - Provide secure remote access to internal systems for remote workers.
Communication policy - Ensure the safe use of communication mediums, such as email and social media, and establish a clear channel for reporting incidents or suspicious activity.
Data security program - Focus on protecting essential data. Encrypt sensitive data in transit, and apply full disk encryption on mobile devices and removable media.
Secure software development lifecycle - Address security issues at every phase of a project to minimize risks and impact.
Personal data protection - Regulate personal data or customer/third-party data under Data Protection Act 2018 and GDPR to ensure privacy and regulatory compliance.Third-party management - List and prioritize third-party access to systems based on associated cyber risks and ensure they follow the organisation's cyber risk management strategy.
6. Enable Identity and Access Management (IAM)
Manage user identities, access permissions, and security for all the IT resources in your organisation. Give the user only a minimum level of access needed to perform their job. Follow these steps to enable IAM:
- Define user roles and access controls.
- Implement multi-factor authentication (MFA) for all user accounts.
- Create and enforce password policies and keep highly complex passwords.
- Implement regular access reviews and audits.
- Develop a robust system to control access (granting, modification, and revocation of permissions).
- Monitor user activity and detect any suspicious activity.
- Integrate IAM with the security architecture to ensure comprehensive security coverage. By implementing IAM, you can reduce the risk of security breaches and maintain the confidentiality and integrity of sensitive data.
7. Encrypt Sensitive Data
Encrypting sensitive data helps ensure the confidentiality and privacy of sensitive information, regardless of where it resides or travels. To implement encryption:
- Identify the types of data that need to be encrypted.
- Select and implement an encryption solution, such as whole-disk encryption, file and folder encryption, email encryption, or database encryption.
- Establish key management processes to ensure secure encryption key distribution, storage, and revocation.
- Implement encryption-related policies and procedures to maintain data protection. Monitor and maintain the encryption infrastructure to ensure that the data is properly encrypted and decrypted when needed.
8. Manage Vulnerabilities
Identify vulnerabilities or weaknesses in your systems or applications that attackers can exploit to gain unauthorized access or cause harm to the organisation. It's crucial to assess and prioritize these vulnerabilities to minimize risk. Managing vulnerabilities involve:
- Scan systems and applications to identify vulnerabilities.
- Integrate vulnerability scans into the security operations process.
- Assess the impact of each vulnerability and prioritize them based on their severity.
- Involve security experts to review vulnerabilities and recommend mitigation measures.
- Determine the best remediation approach.
- Decide on whether to patch, upgrade, or replace affected systems.
- Implement the chosen remediation approach.
- Monitor the status of the remediation process and ensure that vulnerabilities are permanently resolved.
9. Implement Network Segmentation
Network segmentation is a security technique that involves dividing a computer network into smaller sub-networks or segments, each of which serves a specific security or functional purpose. This involves the following actions:
- Defining the sub-networks based on business requirements and security needs.
- Isolating critical systems and data from less secure parts of the network.
- Implementing access controls and security measures to protect each sub-network.
- Monitoring network traffic and activity to detect and respond to any potential threats.
- Regularly reviewing and updating the network segmentation strategy to ensure its continued effectiveness.
Benefits of network segmentation:
By implementing network segmentation, you can:
- Reduce the attack surface by limiting the spread of threats.
- Increase visibility and control over the network.
- Enforce security policies and isolate sensitive data.
- Follow industry regulations and standards, such as PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard).
10. Enable Security Monitoring
It involves monitoring network and system activity to identify and respond to potential security incidents in real-time. Carry out security monitoring by:
Deploying security tools:
Deploy security tools such as intrusion detection systems and firewalls to monitor network activity. These tools provide a comprehensive view of network activity, detect potential security incidents, and send alerts to the relevant personnel for immediate response.
Monitoring user activity:
This includes logging and reporting of access to sensitive information. This helps organisations identify potential security threats and respond promptly to prevent data breaches.
Real-time incident response:You must also establish real-time incident response protocols to address security incidents on time. This involves having a dedicated team or an IT administrator who can review logs.
11. Test and Evaluate Security Measures
Evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of various security measures in detecting and responding to potential security incidents. To test and evaluate security measures, you should:
- Conduct regular security audits which involve a systematic and thorough examination of the security policies, procedures, and technologies to identify potential weaknesses and areas for improvement.
- Regularly evaluate and update your security measures to fine-tune and improve the organisation's security posture.
- Involve all relevant stakeholders, including IT and security teams, business leaders, and external security experts, to ensure the effectiveness of your security measures.
12. Establish Incident Response Management
This involves preparing for, responding to, and recovering from security incidents in a systematic and efficient manner. To establish incident response management, you should:
Develop an incident response plan: The plan should detail the steps to be taken in the event of a security breach, including the roles and responsibilities of different departments and individuals, communication protocols, and data backup and recovery procedures.
Train staff: All staff members should be trained on the incident response plan and their roles and responsibilities in the event of a security breach.
Designate an incident response team: An incident response team should be designated to lead the response to security incidents. The team should consist of individuals from various departments, including IT, legal, and communications.
Establish communication protocols: Communication protocols should be established to inform all relevant parties (senior management, stakeholders, and customers) of the incident and its progress on time.
Respond effectively: Limit the impact of the incident to stop additional harm, eliminate the problem, and return to normal functioning.Evaluate incident outcome: Analyze the underlying reason, the effectiveness of the response, and the outcome of the incident.
13. Establish Business Continuity Management (BCM)
Develop and implement procedures to ensure the continued operation of critical business functions during and after a disruptive cyber incident. You should do the following:
Business Impact Analysis (BIA) – to evaluate the criticality of business functions and their dependencies, to determine the maximum tolerable downtime for each.
Continuity planning - Develop detailed plans for maintaining critical business functions after a disruptive event. This includes identifying alternative means of delivery, communications, and recovery strategies.
A comprehensive cyber risk management strategy
must be implemented to ensure the protection of an organisation’s critical
assets, information, and reputation. The steps outlined in this guide provide a
roadmap for organisations to establish a robust cybersecurity program and
minimize the risk of a cyber-attack. Regularly revisiting and updating each
step is crucial to stay ahead of evolving threats and technologies. By
following this approach, you can enhance your organisation's cyber resilience
and protect its business operations in the face of today's complex and rapidly
changing cyber landscape.