The One Cybersecurity Assessment Every Organization Needs

December 15, 2016

Do a quick google search of cybersecurity assessments and you’ll find dozens of results that range from online surveys to downloadable diagnostics. Because cybersecurity assessment is a broad term and can account for a multitude of activities, for the purpose of this article, we are defining a cybersecurity assessment as an evaluation of your cybersecurity program. This usually consists of a checklist to verify documentation exists, that all actions have been identified and assigned to appropriate personnel, and that certain technical controls have been implemented (e.g. firewalls, access control, or minimum password requirements). This is an internal assessment and should be conducted on a yearly basis to identify policies and procedures that require updates or alterations.

While a yearly cybersecurity assessment is necessary, it’s no longer enough to simply have a cybersecurity program in place that meets all the specs. To be effective, cybersecurity program should be maturing and growing because the intrusions will not stop and only gain in complexity.

Contrary to popular belief, cybersecurity maturity is not defined as a program which touches on all aspects of the Cybersecurity Framework and has all of the technical controls implemented with a robust cybersecurity personnel department to operate and maintain those controls. The appropriate definition of maturity varies greatly from business to business. Not to mention that the resources and business requirements differ greatly when discussing small, medium, and large-scale businesses.

For an organization to mature its cybersecurity program, an assessment needs to be conducted that goes beyond checklists and routine questions. The assessment is to understand the maturity of your cybersecurity program and how to move it to the next level. A cybersecurity maturity assessment is a strategic analysis of your entire cybersecurity program, particularly the foundation.

A maturity assessment is most effective when conducted by a third-party, particularly when it comes to assessing policies and procedures. One of the hardest parts is taking a step back and looking at your policies and procedures without any prejudice, especially when you are the one responsible for writing them. In a cybersecurity maturity assessment, this goes beyond simply scanning documents to ensure they are up to date; it is an in-depth reviewing followed by detailed recommendations for improving the policies and procedures.

Ensuring your business requirements are properly addressed and understood

An essential element of the maturity assessment is ensuring the business requirements are properly addressed and understood by both the cybersecurity staff and the senior leadership in the organization. This can be a tricky environment to navigate if you are too close to the problem. An independent, third-party will be able to identify issues which may seem irrelevant or not fully understood by the current staff. One of the more difficult aspects of cybersecurity maturity is being able to independently assess hot-stove topics and determine a good course of action.

Understanding your network infrastructure and identifying the best way to expand your cybersecurity posture

The most exciting piece of the assessment is understanding your network infrastructure and identifying the best way to grow and expand your cybersecurity posture. While this is the easiest and best understood part of the assessment, the key is understanding the nuance of what is truly needed for your network environment. Not every business requires the same technology, nor does every technology need to be deployed in your business. Technology requirements need to be tied into business requirements and also adapted based on the acceptable risk for each organization. Don’t believe the marketing hype — throwing a piece of technology on your network will not make it any more secure without the proper understanding of the environment and how the technology integrates with the larger network.

Much like a house, each cybersecurity program should be defined by the business requirements, the industry the cybersecurity program is supporting, and the resources available to the organization. While the structural foundation varies little from house to house, each structure starts to differ when you look at the size and shape of the foundation, the design of the house, and the layout of the rooms inside the house. For example, just because all financial institutions have the same rules and regulations it doesn’t mean their cybersecurity programs are the same. The foundation should be the same, but the design of the house will more than likely be different.

Cybersecurity is a large and complex organism that is continuously changing. Building and maturing your cybersecurity program is not an easy task, and it won’t happen overnight. While it’s impossible to keep up with the almost daily changes in security, a Cybersecurity Maturity Assessment will provide the foundation necessary to deploy a successful cybersecurity program. Once you understand your current posture and the ideal maturity for your organization, and are equipped with the right roadmap and expertise, your cybersecurity program will mature and grow.

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