4 Tips for Reducing Your Company’s Cyber Exposure

If your organization is like many others, its cyber exposure continues to grow over time. During the pandemic, as attackers sought to exploit unprecedented changes in work environments, 35% of cyberattacks used previously unseen malware or methods, up from the norm of 20%. And with the average enterprise using well over 1,000 cloud services, it can be very difficult to get a handle on potential vulnerabilities or to know when risks will pop up.

Fortunately, there are several things you can do to limit your organization’s cyber exposure and fortify its attack surface against potential threats. Let’s take a look at four effective strategies you can begin to employ today to proactively manage risk. 

1. Employ tools to automatically identify potential problems

As your organization’s digital ecosystem expands, gaining a handle on where risk lies can pose a challenge. Vulnerabilities such as unpatched systems, open ports, misconfigured software, and so on can be hidden in the cloud, shadow IT, and across business units and geographies. You need tools that can automatically and proactively identify areas of cyber exposure so you can tackle them intelligently and with a focused effort.

A solution like BitSight Attack Surface Analytics can continuously identify areas of disproportionate risk across your entire digital ecosystem. With this intelligence in hand, you can  better pinpoint areas of vulnerability and prioritize remediation. After all, you can’t secure what you can’t see. 

2. Create a cyber exposure response team

Preparing for and responding to cybersecurity threats is not the job of one person, or even just the IT team. Effectively mitigating risks and cyber exposure requires the combined efforts of a number of individuals from various disciplines across your organization.

For example, while your CISO and their team members run point on managing the immediate threat, legal teams will likely need to get involved in the event of data exposure -- especially if customers’ personal information was compromised. Your company’s communications team must also be prepared to spring into action, communicating the ramifications of the event to customers, partners, and other stakeholders. Sales teams will need to be brought into the loop so they can effectively communicate to customers and partners. Finally, HR managers should be considered part of your cyber exposure response team, as they can work to assuage employees’ concerns and step in if employee information has been stolen.

BitSight Attack Surface Analytics is part of our security performance management (SPM) suite of tools, a comprehensive set of solutions for reducing cyber risk.

3. Have a plan in place to alert stakeholders in case of a breach

When a breach occurs, as your technical teams work to mitigate the damage, mobilize your cyber exposure response team to alert customers and partners about what happened. The last thing you want is for them to be taken by surprise. Clearly explain to them a) what transpired; b) how it impacts them (if at all); c) what you’re doing to address it now and in the future. After all, cybersecurity incidents have been known to cause not just long-term financial impacts but reputational challenges as well.

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In addition to communicating directly with stakeholders when an event occurs, it’s also a good idea to share breach information with your vendors. This will help ensure that the third parties you interconnect with take appropriate steps to assess if their networks have been impacted. 

A solution like BitSight’s Enable Vendor Access feature allows you to collaborate with vendors to help them improve their security profiles and remediate risks. Enable Vendor Access is part of BitSight’s third-party risk management solutions which use security ratings and other factors to determine vendors’ propensity for risk.

4. Continuously monitor to proactively prevent the next threat

Cybersecurity events happen suddenly and unexpectedly. The best way to prevent them is to continuously monitor your attack surface and that of your third-party vendors. 

This advice is likely different from what you might normally hear, particularly when it comes to third-party risk. Usually, companies rely on annual or bi-annual questionnaires to ascertain their partners’ security postures. But those methods are no longer enough. You need to keep continuous tabs on their potential for risk.

Continuous cybersecurity monitoring involves a number of practices, from routinely monitoring user behavior to keeping up with your vendors’ patching cadence. Check out these tips to help you get started. 

Underneath the strategy lies the technology. The tools on your list should include security ratings, which provide ongoing insights into how well your vendors are performing. You can also use security ratings and other SPM solutions to proactively and continuously monitor your organization’s own security posture and attack surface. Remember: a higher rating equates to better security, while a lower rating -- say, anything less than 500 -- is a warning sign.

We’re living in the wake of some of the most highly-publicized cyber attacks in recent history. As such, it’s evident that reducing your cyber exposure should be a top priority as we head into the latter half of 2021 and beyond. Hopefully these tips will help you do that and, in the process, build a more secure organization that’s well prepared for whatever attackers might be planning next.