Security Performance Management

3 Steps to Building an Effective Cyber Risk Strategy

Sibel Bagcilar | December 9, 2020

In today’s “new normal” operating environment, you’re contending with a growing attack surface, limited resources, and an increasingly remote workforce — all at once. Given these conditions, it’s more important than ever to have a solid security performance management program in place.

Read on for proven tips and best practices on how to develop an effective cyber risk strategy that empowers you to monitor, manage, and mitigate threats throughout your network.

1. Gain visibility into the risk present across your ever-expanding ecosystem


From the ongoing migration to the cloud to the widespread shift to remote work, there are a variety of factors causing your enterprise’s attack surface to expand faster than ever before. With this ever-growing ecosystem comes more digital touchpoints for you to monitor and assess — each of which introduces its own potential threats and vulnerabilities.

To make matters more complex, cyber attacks are on the rise as malicious actors are taking advantage of the potential flaws in our new operating environment to advance their nefarious objectives. According to a recently conducted study by the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) and Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), cybersecurity professionals saw a 63% increase in cyber attacks related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Having insight and context into the threats lurking across this complex ecosystem is essential to building a strong security performance management strategy. That’s where security ratings come in — providing you with outside-in visibility into your company network so that you can understand where risk is concentrated.

Based on independent, objective, and comparable data, BitSight Security Ratings provide a dynamic measurement of your security performance in a variety of different risk vectors across four categories: compromised systems, diligence, user behavior, and public disclosures. Armed with these insights, you can quickly and easily pinpoint any security gaps that need to be addressed.

For instance, you may find that you have a low rating in the patching cadence risk vector, which assesses the speed at which a company resolves publicly disclosed vulnerabilities. In this scenario, you’ll want to take swift action to mitigate the issue — as failing to patch makes an organization at least 2x more likely to suffer a breach. Here, your remediation efforts may involve taking action items such as revamping your employee security training program to ensure your entire team is following the desired patching protocol.

2. Continuously monitor and remediate potential vulnerabilities


When it comes to building and optimizing your cyber risk strategy, there’s one ultimate pattern you should keep in mind: discover, assess, remediate, repeat. Once you gain visibility into the unknown risks lurking across your growing attack surface, you need to ensure you have a streamlined and effective process for evaluating and mitigating those threats. And as new cyber risks are constantly entering the scene, it’s critical that your assessments go beyond periodic, compliance-based cyber reviews that only provide a point-in-time snapshot of your security performance.

Through BitSight Security Ratings data, you can continuously monitor your network for vulnerabilities such as unpatched systems, open access ports, and misconfigured software — empowering you to assess your real-time cyber risk across on-premise, cloud, and remote office environments in an efficient and effective way. 

With this continuous visibility, you can quickly identify areas of disproportionate risk, making it easier than ever to get the most out of your security investments. By gaining this much-needed context into your security performance, you can allocate your limited time and resources to the areas where you can achieve the greatest security performance impact — empowering you to put the necessary controls in place to ensure you’re meeting what your organization deems to be an acceptable risk threshold.

3. Evaluate and report on security program performance over time


Of course, building an effective cyber risk management strategy also involves a regular review of your security program performance — a process in which you should identify paths to reduce risk, create informed improvement plans, and track your progress against those goals. 

Here, real-time data is critical to your ability to quantify the impact and effectiveness of your security investments. As BitSight Security Ratings are updated on a daily basis, you can ensure you always have the latest information at your fingertips when evaluating how your security performance is changing over time across a variety of different risk vectors.

The other big piece of the puzzle at this stage is being able to report on results to various stakeholders — such as board members — in a language that makes sense to the business. In your reports, it’s critical that you put technical concepts in context for non-technical individuals. Reports that provide numbers without these types of insights are more likely to be overlooked, especially if the reader doesn’t have the skills or knowledge to draw conclusions from the data.

Here, taking a risk-based approach to cybersecurity reporting — as opposed to a compliance-based or an incident-based approach — is essential to your success. Doing so empowers you to assess performance based on actual exposure to cyber threats, quantify what’s at stake on a financial and reputational level, and highlight the value of your cybersecurity efforts.

Optimize your cyber risk strategy


In today’s “new normal” operating environment, it’s critical that you take a step back and reassess your traditional methods for tracking and evaluating your security performance over time. By leveraging a standardized, easily understandable KPI like security ratings at every stage of the process, you can optimize your cyber risk strategy and find new operational efficiencies — ultimately enabling you to do more with less.

Interested in learning more about how to report on your security program performance effectively? Check out our ebook, A Practical Guide to Risk-Based Cybersecurity Reporting.

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