CISOs: Five ways to ramp up your security strategy

Every day, and usually without organisations realising it, their networks are being breached. With confidential information exposed to the wrong eyes, secrets can become commodities capable of ruining well held reputations.

We live in a world where network incidents are so common that no one can deny their existence. As attacks proliferate, problems mount. With the attack surface continually growing, more devices being plugged into networks, and growing volumes of data, the challenges for corporate leaders are more complex than ever.

Fortunately, most enterprises are taking steps to increase their defence, but the security strategy does not become effective by merely adding another layer of software to the stack. We need to rethink the entire approach. As most security professionals will attest, the task of setting up, maintaining and altering an integrated enterprise security system – often containing multiple vendor solutions – is not simple. What is important is knowing what type of solution to implement and why.

The first step to combating this challenge is to examine a number of common variables at work that point towards why cyber security problems continue to grow despite the availability of innovative solutions in the market. 

Expanding networks. Agile hackers. Let’s look at the variables

  • Networks continue to grow with each user connecting multiple devices into the system.
  • Attackers are more agile than most organisations and can afford a ‘low and slow’ approach before pulling the trigger.
  • The explosion of social networking and the subsequent high volume of data & users it has created, helps hackers get easier access into corporate networks.
  • The widespread reach of black markets and rampant utilisation of automated systems has created a marketplace primed for maleficence.
  • The proliferation of technology has created a world that is more diverse and disparate than ever.

We continue to be pulled in a million directions as information travels quicker. The above scenarios are just the tip of the ‘cyber-risk iceberg’. In reality, there are hundreds of variables to identify, assess, and use when looking for the right solution.

From this viewpoint, we will do our best to turn those variables into tangible steps toward a more comprehensive security strategy.

Understand. Articulate. Act

Where is a cyber security professional to begin when the stakes are set against the corporation? The key is better preparation. Below are five steps that will provide an approach to help build a strategy that offers the potential to outsmart the attacker.

1. Stop guessing. Assume your enterprise has already been breached

This is where detection technology is critical. Implementing a signature-based system is helpful but it is not sufficient. What is needed is a system that detects behaviour anomalies by correlating seemingly disparate events.

Think of a security guard on patrol, noticing potentially unrelated incidents that he can then tie together. He sees a security light has gone dark; this is not necessarily cause for alarm, but it could be if there is broken glass where the bulb was broken. Thus, it is the pinning together of isolated events that could shine light on abnormal behaviour that leads to the discovery of a malicious intruder.

2. Assess the most critical assets and potential compromises within your network

For example, are your end users reliant on mobile devices? Are your employees constantly working remotely or on-the-go? The 2015 Cyber Threat Defense Report shows that 59 per cent of respondents experienced an increase in mobile threats over the past year. If you have a mobile-heavy workforce, make sure you’re monitoring all apps and mobile traffic.

Also, know the storage location of the most critical assets of your organisation, such as corporate IP, client info, project plans, etc., and have consistent management of access permission settings.

3. Understand your risks and core infrastructure

You must be aware of the most vulnerable risks posed to your organisation in the event of a breach. What assets pose the greatest danger to your stability if they fall into the wrong hands? What is the level of security as defined by your existing cyber security stack? How much of your resources have been deployed to your perimeter versus the network core?

4. Articulate

Learn the way in which your organisation’s Board of Directors communicates and receives information best. They typically do not have time to review hundreds of metrics; therefore, you must be able to organise your findings in a succinct, action-oriented manner that makes it easier for the board to make decisions that help your organisation. They certainly have the means to move resources. Make them your advocates.

5. Act

Once a plan is in place, execution is vital. Make sure you put the necessary time and effort into building a resilient and secure system prepared to fight off invaders both inside and outside the firewall. In the end, it will save your organisation valuable time and money while protecting your reputation. 

Securing your network from the inside out via detection is crucial. Since we know that more than 90 per cent of networks already have intruders present, we must take steps to detect their presence, identify how they got in, and make a plan to protect the network from future intrusion.

Kirsten Bay, President and CEO, Cyber adAPT

Image source: Shutterstock/deepadesigns