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The Importance of an IT Security Strategy

Aquipt Inc. / February 16,2021

Last year was a record year for cyber attacks. Thanks to the majority of the global workforce shifting to working remotely due to COVID-19, cyber attackers ramped up their efforts, resulting in the following statistics:

  • Cloud-based attacks rose 630% between January and April 2020
  • Visits to hacker forums and websites rose 66% in March 2020
  • The average ransomware payment rose 33%, reaching $111,605, compared to the fourth quarter of 2019
  • Ransomware attacks increased by 148% in March 2020
  • Phishing attempts rose 600% since the end of February 2020

COVID-19 is considered to be the cause of a 238% rise in attacks on banks, and in the past year, 80% of firms have seen a rise in cyber attacks. 

With so much risk all around us, it’s time to take a look at our cyber security practices. Whether you haven’t revised your IT security strategy or you haven’t yet formed one, it’s time to examine your security practices and develop a strategy that will protect you against unforeseeable future attacks and carry you into the future.

What Is an IT Security Strategy?

A cyber security strategy is crucial to helping your company take a proactive approach to security. It’s about developing a proactive approach to security rather than being forced to react without protocol to every new threat. With no strategy in place, dealing with each new attack that comes along can be time-consuming, stressful, and pricey. Developing an IT security strategy is about…

  • Determining what assets you have to protect and prioritizing what should be protected first
  • Identifying compliance regulations and what data and assets you’re legally required to protect
  • Understanding the kinds of risk your organization can accept in pursuit of specific objectives

Essentially, your IT security strategy is a document that’s carefully and thoughtfully prepared and periodically revised and updated, outlining the major security concerns your organization may face and the plans to handle them. 

Understanding Your Risks

Becoming literate in cyber risks doesn’t mean that every executive on your team needs to be a technical expert, proficient in all things cyber security. However, your team should be able to establish your organization’s tolerance for cyber risks, identify the key outcomes that are most important in guiding where you’ll focus your cyber security investments, and understand how to foster your organization’s specific culture of cyber security and resilience.

For this reason, it’s best to conduct a full risk assessment to discover how well your organization’s existing defenses can keep you protected from cyber attacks. This assessment includes

  • Disruptions of products and services
  • A breach of your confidential data
  • Fraud driven by a cyber attack

Understanding your risks will give you an idea of how well you’ve already prepared yourself to fight off attacks and recover afterward; it’s about cyber resilience.

The risks of low cyber resilience are plain. There’s no shortage of examples of compromised networks up for sale to the highest criminal bidder, factories where production is disrupted and manufacturers lose revenue, fraudulent bank wires, and privacy-invading breaches of customer data.

All of this can lead to lasting reputational damage to your organization. 

Proactiveness, Early Detection, and Swift Responses

Before, during, and after a cyber attack, you want to be prepared—and that’s where your security strategy can help.

Having a cyber security strategy is about being proactive, adopting a mentality of assuming your organization will face threats rather than hoping they don’t happen. This isn’t about being a pessimist; it’s about being prepared and implementing perpetual monitoring and maintenance to keep you protected. This can be achieved with strategies such as…

  • Penetration testing of web applications, mobile apps, your network, and infrastructure
  • Security vulnerability scans to find defects and misconfigurations that make you vulnerable to an attack
  • Business continuity planning to accelerate recovery and reduce downtime
  • Managed security for active logging and monitoring of your organization’s networks for security incidents

Early Detection

Early detection is the best way to prevent the recent rapid advancements in cyber attacks we’ve seen over the past year. It’s about having defense mechanisms in place that are up to the task.

The earlier you can identify an anomaly like malicious code, the more likely you are able to resolve it. A cyber security strategy gives your organization the framework that is conducive to early detection. It’s like having a set of well-established ground rules to catch anything out of the ordinary.

Swift Response

Not even the most secure of organizations can fight off every single cyber attack. If it can happen to major companies like Equifax, Facebook, and Uber — all of whom have very intensive cyber security practices — then it can happen to anyone. Your security strategy will prepare you with a swift response for a successful cyber attack, and you’ll know how to react quickly. 

Your security strategy should be clear about the roles every team member should play and what’s expected of them, preventing overlap or miscommunication. It’s a way to make sure that you divert work and resources to the right place to neutralize threats — whether you have a minor issue or a large-scale attack. 

Meet Compliance Standards

Today, many companies have to meet compliance standards and regulations like the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). In the European Union, organizations must comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). When you don’t comply with these regulations, you face fines, penalties, and major damage to your reputation. 

When you are compliant, you can mitigate these risks, maintain trust with your consumers, and stay competitive. Having a plan of action keeps you on top of best practices to meet standards in your industry. 

Standardizing Your Security Practices

With more regulations like the GDPR and PCI DSS on the horizon and other regulations like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) already in effect, organizations across industries need to implement information security best practices. When you standardize your data practices to meet or anticipate these regulations, you can protect consumer data and keep your operations standard and compliant. 

Close the Gap Between Current-State and Target-State Security

How much security is enough? There are all kinds of ways to answer this question depending on your organization’s size, the complexity, your industry, and the maturity of your program. 

A security strategy can help you assemble a customized program to meet your needs. You can achieve this through understanding where you want your organization to be — your target state, compared to where it is now, your current state. From here, you can develop a roadmap to outline how to get from where you are to where you need to be.

Patching and Updating

When software developers discover weaknesses in their programming, they issue patches and updates to mend these weaknesses. Patching and updating are two of the most effective strategies to maintaining cyber security and the best way to address emerging vulnerabilities that hackers may already know about. 

Sometimes, patches and updates go uninstalled because there’s no clear plan in place. Including patching and updates in your security strategy is a way to take ownership of these actions. In your security strategy, this task may fall to one individual or a particular department, but without including these responsibilities in your security strategy, these issues may fall through the cracks.

Asset Management

In the information security and information technology industries, an “asset” refers to anything of value to your organization. This can refer to devices, data, information, software systems, and even the people on your team.

Your organization should identify and engineer the right strategies to maintain all of the information systems required to keep your business operating. The goal is to mitigate risk and avert potential threats to these assets to maintain seamless business operations while still safeguarding these assets. Your security strategy can help you manage these assets before, during, and after any kind of attack by taking stock of your company’s requirements and then determining which systems and techniques will allow your business to operate smoothly no matter what.

Vulnerability Management

Chances are, your IT department scans the devices that are connected to the network. Depending on the size of your organization, this could be hundreds or even thousands of devices. The problem is that sometimes, these physical security devices are taken at face value, without any context for what they actually do or what security controls they employ. Without realizing it, the settings and features of these solutions may actually be at odds with your organizational cyber security policies.

Some manufacturers ship their devices with self-signed security certificates, which may show up as red flags on your IT scans. As part of your security strategy, you’ll want to explain the practicality and usefulness of these certificates to your IT department to avoid security hiccups. 

Additionally, device manufacturers’ firmware often uses other vendors’ codes for network services. This includes OpenSSL and Apache Web Server. It’s important to understand that you are dependent on these code vendors when you buy a product. When vulnerabilities are  identified and reported right away, fixes can’t be implemented immediately. This is because these vendors have to work with other providers to patch vulnerabilities. This means your IT department can develop mitigation strategies to manage these vulnerabilities while you wait for these patches, but all of this can be defined in your IT security strategy to make the process simpler and eliminate questions. 
The Importance of Documentation

Often, manufacturers publish a guide to help security professionals defend devices against cyber threats. These guides can serve as a baseline for dealing with a broadening threat landscape. The installers must match what’s within this documentation as well as what’s in the cyber security policy. A cyber security strategy that includes all of this documentation is essential to ensuring devices and systems can provide the level of protection your organization requires. 

By having this information at hand when deploying new systems and creating security strategies, you can be sure your devices and systems are deployed in compliance with manufacturer policies.

Ensure Supply Chain Security

Where are your products coming from? How are vendors securing their devices before they shipped them to you?

Many device manufacturers take steps to ensure that the supply chain is not an opportunity for an attack vector. Encryption keys and secure boot strategies can keep devices secure between manufacturing and deployment, but this can only help you if it’s part of your security strategy

Why is a security strategy so important? Developing your cyber security strategy gives you a better, more well-rounded understanding of your current environment as well as where you need to go. When you identify your inadequacies and vulnerabilities, you’ll know what modifications you need to make to get where you need to be and know what to do when disaster strikes. 

At Aquipt, we offer the strategies and answers you need. Let’s ensure you’re ready for anything. Connect with us today

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