Cyber security has not been a key focus in many organisations in the past. A rise of malware and the increased sophistication of cybercrime have forced many organisations to rethink their cyber defences. Even those organisations with strong defences will have grey areas which are often overlooked when planning their cyber security strategies and roadmap.
Modern IT infrastructures are highly scalable and undergo a significant volume of change and transformation over time. However, the security hygiene of these IT assets is often not constant and may vary in scope and approach.
This can introduce new risks and contribute to complex risks over time due to different internal and external factors. This increases the possibility for criminals and threat actors to strike the weakest link and exploit the organisation’s information, data and systems.
Change is the only constant in the world of “Digital Resilience”. The threat landscape is ever evolving and cyber security strategies should be continuously revamped to assess the threats, vectors and sources. This is a key reason to perform periodic cyber security assessments.
Almost all organisations store and process sensitive data and are legally obligated to have periodic cyber security assessments. There are many government and international regulations that mandate organisations to develop cyber resilient mechanisms to ensure the integrity, availability and confidentiality of the data. For example, APRA, PCI, Privacy Act, ISO27001 etc highlight common standards to be used for protecting sensitive data and systems.
Organisations that do not hold or process sensitive data are also recommended to undertake periodic cyber security assessments to highlight underlying security weaknesses, develop mitigation plans and devise measure to control the associated risks.
Besides complying with regulations and industry standards, periodic assessments provide a critical view of cyber resilience and a means to determine whether security has been breached or compromised. It also enables the organisations to be more threat intelligent and stay ahead of the cyber-attack chain.
These assessments also determine the vigilance of the people in an organisation and help to identify where Security Awareness is lacking and where further training can be planned and executed for employees.
C-Levels and boards can also make informed decisions based on the assessment findings by ensuring focus on cyber sensitive areas for strategic investments. These decisions go a long way in making the organisation and its processes more resilient to cybercrime and corporate espionage.
Periodic cyber security assessments also identify different threat vectors which have potential to compromise the data or systems. These possible paths of attacks can be leveraged to initiate attacks both internally and externally.
The best combat against vulnerabilities is through patching. Vendors around the world keep on releasing the security patches for new vulnerabilities almost every day. Security assessments can also determines how effectively vulnerabilities are identified and patched.
A single security patch on an operating system can mitigate several critical vulnerabilities. Organisations will see substantial improvement in their cyber resilience if they establish a regular patching cycles for operating systems and applications.
The cyber security assessment report details the security areas that demand improvement by following a business driven, risk-based approach. This gives the board an oversight into the cyber security posture of their organisation and the alignment with internationally established best practices and standards.
Key findings can also be used to formulate new policies and processes throughout the organisation. This also sets the bar for the future to constantly evolve using the identified weaknesses and proactive plans to mitigate and avoid the risks before they materialise.
Key Takeaway Messages
All organisations should assess their cyber security controls on periodic basis. Identified risks should be assessed and analysed to create a robust risk treatment plan. After the execution of remediation actions and risk treatment, residual risk should be measured to ensure that it is in commensurate with the organisation’s risk appetite.
Key risk indicators should also be established to identify the trends and developing patterns over time to predict the risks and evaluate the performance of controls.
Whilst an internal Cyber Security team can undertake the periodic cyber security assessment there are also benefits to engaging with an independent cyber security consulting firm.