More than likely, you’re already well-aware that a cyber attack could have a devastating impact on your business, affecting everything from your daily operations to your reputation. In fact, a recent Forbes article points out that businesses have named cybersecurity threats as their most pressing concern, outpacing worries about natural disasters, supply chain disruptions, and other serious issues. As such, effective cybersecurity planning has become a top priority for organizations around the globe – and rightfully so.
What is a cybersecurity plan?
In simplest terms, a cybersecurity plan details an organization’s security policies, procedures, and controls, outlining the necessary steps for protecting against various risks and threats. In addition to these protective measures, a cybersecurity plan should also describe the specific steps to take in the event of a breach.
Practically speaking, this plan is generally built on a portfolio of key security services. Depending on your organization’s unique needs, these services typically include monitoring, threat protection, and alerting at their most basic level, scaling up as necessary.
What are the five key elements of a cybersecurity strategy?
Based on the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework, there are five basic functions that make up the foundation of a solid security plan:
- Identify: Locating all physical/software assets, understanding existing security policies and vulnerabilities, and creating a risk management strategy
- Protect: Implementing protection for access control/identity management, protection processes and procedures, and crucial protective technology; providing staff awareness training, setting up data security protection measures in line with risk strategy, and safeguarding resources via ongoing maintenance
- Detect: Defining the appropriate steps for identifying a security incident and allowing for timely discovery, including ensuring rapid detection, practicing continuous monitoring, and maintaining effective detection processes
- Respond: Being prepared to contain a potential security incident, including the execution of response planning processes, recovery activities, communication, mitigation activities, and future improvements
- Recover: Maintaining and updating plans for recovery and resilience, including measures for restoring services/capabilities/assets and implementing improvements based on incident data
This framework is intended to encompass your organization’s entire environment, including all users, data, and applications, extended as needed to cover value/supply chains and so on. A truly comprehensive, end-to-end security framework will cover:
- Multiple clouds (including public, private, and hybrid)
- Data protection/recovery
Regardless of the specific security needs of your organization, in order to achieve best practices in all the above areas, it is crucial that you develop a framework that incorporates agility, intelligence, and resiliency.
Why is a cybersecurity plan important?
Research from the U.S. Small Business Administration shows that cyber criminals cost the global economy nearly $450 billion each year, having a staggering effect on organization’ operations, revenue, and customer trust. And it’s not just major corporations that experience cybercrime; 50% of all small businesses report being the victim of a security incident – with nearly 70% of those affected being attacked more than once.
Cybercrime poses several extremely real and measurable threats to your organization, including:
- A disruption of services/business operations
- Financial repercussions, including loss of business due to halted operations or a breach in customer trust, loss of competitive advantages, extortion, and the cost of recovery
- Stolen property, including intellectual property
- Violations of compliance/regulations
- Lasting damage to your business reputation
The best defense against cybercrime is relatively simple and straightforward: a clear, detailed plan that establishes a comprehensive approach to protecting your business in every way necessary.
A well-crafted cybersecurity plan serves many purposes:
- It allows your organization to gain a deeper understanding of your risk
- It puts your organization in a better position to stay ahead of threat actors
- It empowers your organization with the means for early detection and quick, action-oriented solutions
- It helps your organization meet compliance standards as necessary
- It recognizes the ever-evolving nature of threats and devises plans for adaptation
How to create an effective cybersecurity plan: a step-by-step guide
Developing cybersecurity plans necessitates a significant investment of time and effort; however, the results are well worth it. Due to the complexity of modern cybersecurity needs, most organizations choose to partner with a professional in order to successfully navigate this process and ensure an optimal outcome.
1. Conduct a cybersecurity risk assessment
An IT security risk assessment is a crucial first step, helping your organization assess, pinpoint, and improve its overall security posture based on meaningful data. In addition to playing a central part in the well-informed development of a final plan, this process is important for obtaining stakeholder support for the allocation of resources.
Some key steps involved in the process of risk assessment include:
- Identifying all assets and the current asset tracking system(s)
- Determining data classifications, such as public, confidential, and compliance-restricted data
- Mapping and organizing all organizational assets, including software, users, systems, etc.
- Establishing the threat landscape, taking stock of third-party relationships, external vs. internal infrastructure, networks, etc.
- Evaluating risks to determine the risk levels of various systems/assets
With a risk assessment completed, your organization will have an excellent starting point for next steps.
2. Identify your organization’s goals
An effective strategy for cybersecurity will be in line with organizational/business goals, seamlessly fitting into the “big picture” of your business and its future. This will involve delving into your organization’s expectations for the strategy (including timelines and budget), as well as the easily attainable security tasks that represent quick wins for your business.
3. Evaluate existing technology
Then, you’ll need to take a step back and examine all the technology currently in use, so that you can determine whether those systems are adhering to security best practices. This means asking questions such as:
- What is currently in use? What is the state of these operating systems (e.g., patches, updates, etc.)?
- Are the appropriate resources available for securing these systems?
- Are there systems performing duplicate services/tasks that can be modified?
The goal of a good cybersecurity strategy is to support your organization, so taking inventory of how you are currently utilizing technology ensures a better fit and ample protection.
4. Choose a well-suited security framework
Selecting a security framework is far easier when completed with professional support. The best framework for security will largely rest on your organization’s wants and needs, including any compliance regulations that may apply to your business.
In most cases, a carefully tailored framework is the solution that will deliver ideal results.
5. Review current security policies
Before you can begin to build a new and improved security plan, you should evaluate the policies you presently have in place:
- Review existing policies to determine if they align with your current business needs/model
- Gauge whether the policies are actually enforced or simply written
- Assess training efforts made for cybersecurity awareness on an employee level
At this stage, your organization can begin to chart a course for genuinely productive improvements.
6. Set up and implement your new security strategy
Finally, after extensive preparations, your organization can execute your updated strategy. No two cybersecurity plans will look exactly alike, simply because each organization has their own priorities and goals; however, most security solutions feature foundational services such as:
- Endpoint device security
- Email security
- Device monitoring/alerting
- Vulnerability management/scanning
- DNS security
- Patch management
- Password protection
- Multi-factor authentication
- Immutable storage (data protection)
Technological advancements offer an impressive range of options for cybersecurity strategies, including beneficial capabilities such as automation. Working with a highly qualified provider will allow you access to the latest tools and resources, which your organization can leverage to achieve the best results.
7. Continuously evaluate and adjust your strategy
Even after the strategy has been implemented, the work is not done. It is imperative to constantly reassess your security plans and policies, making necessary updates to keep up with shifting needs, trends, and threats.
Does your business need a professional cybersecurity solution?
On the surface, it seems like it would make sense that certain companies need cybersecurity services more than others. For example, when you consider industries such as healthcare or financial services, cybersecurity is clearly essential to safeguarding the vast amounts of sensitive data involved. Our team is often asked if certain companies need cybersecurity services more than others, and whether a full-scale cybersecurity plan may be unnecessary for some businesses.
It is a common misconception that not all companies need professional-level cybersecurity services – whether you are operating a massive enterprise or a small local business, you are a target for cybercrime. Yes, it is true that not all companies have the same cybersecurity needs; however, every single organization requires cybersecurity at some level, particularly as new threats and risks emerge over time.
So, exactly how do you know which cybersecurity services your organization needs? Partnering with a professional provider for cybersecurity consulting services is key. A trusted expert can conduct an in-depth risk assessment to pinpoint existing and potential future vulnerabilities, evaluating any current security measures, specific organizations needs and goals, and more. With this information, your cybersecurity partner can then provide tailored recommendations, devising a highly customized portfolio of services for your organization.
Ideally, you’ll participate in a collaborative process to answer key questions, including “What is included in a cybersecurity plan?” and “How do I write a cybersecurity plan?”, specifically through the lens of what your organization wants and needs.
Gain an experienced partner in cybersecurity planning and implementation
Ultimately, a robust cybersecurity plan is the best way to take a proactive approach to protecting your business from a diverse range of threats. But in our modern age of technology, out-of-the-box security solutions no longer suffice. In order to truly safeguard your business, clients, and staff, we highly recommend working with a reputable cybersecurity provider to develop, execute, and scale the ideal strategy for your organization.
I hope you found this information helpful. As always, contact us anytime about your technology needs.
Until next time,