Every cybersecurity leader is looking for best practices to prevent cyber threats and cyberattacks. Chief among them is a relentless focus on cyber hygiene—the practice of maintaining the cyber health of your digital infrastructure.
Good cyber hygiene significantly lowers the chance of cyber incidents. Indeed, a Bitsight study found that poor cyber hygiene, as determined by an organization’s security rating, increases the risk of a ransomware attack by 4.6 times.
But you can reduce this risk by practicing cyber threat prevention strategies that shine a light on cyber risk across your digital ecosystem—on-premises, in the cloud, and across remote offices and your supply chain—and prioritize risk mitigation.
Let’s look at five ways you can do that—without putting additional pressure on stretched resources.
1. Understand your expanding attack surface
You can’t secure what you can’t see.
As your digital footprint grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to understand where risk lies hidden. This presents more potential vulnerabilities that can be exploited. Perhaps a web application firewall in an AWS cloud instance is misconfigured or marketing has subscribed to a new shadow IT app that doesn’t align with your security policies. How would you know?
Point monitoring tools can help, but they don’t give the big picture. Furthermore, security teams are frequently swamped with data and alerts and may miss something important.
There are several tactics you can leverage to increase visibility:
- Monitoring the latest cyber threat intelligence and trends to understand evolving risks.
- Maintaining an up-to-date asset inventory—systems, networks, applications, and devices—to identify potential entry points.
- Conducting regular vulnerability assessments and penetration testing exercises to identify weaknesses and potential attack vectors.
- Educating employees and stakeholders about cybersecurity best practices to reduce human error.
- Performing thorough vendor risk assessments and monitoring the security posture of third parties as part of a holistic third-party risk management (TPRM) program.
When it comes to solutions, Bitsight Attack Surface Analytics can take the guesswork out of analyzing cybersecurity performance by giving you insight into all your organization’s digital assets—and their security posture—via a centralized dashboard. Ecosystem-wide views enable you to quickly identify known and hidden assets and their risks across cloud providers, geography, and business units.
2. Quickly discover emerging and hidden vulnerabilities
Cyber risks are constantly emerging. But knowing which ones are the most pressing and urgent often comes down to guesswork.
For example, open ports are critical network vulnerabilities that cyber criminals exploit to gain access to sensitive data. On a small network with few IP addresses, closing open ports is no big task. But on larger networks, particularly those that extend to the cloud, detecting and managing open ports can be time-consuming.
Implementing continuous vulnerability scanning tools allows for automated monitoring of networks, systems, and applications, enabling timely detection of weaknesses such as open ports, misconfigurations, and outdated software. In combination with the tactics above, this will empower you to proactively identify and address hidden vulnerabilities, prioritize them, and allocate resources effectively to mitigate risk.
For improved visibility, Bitsight automatically scans your entire digital footprint for open ports and other vulnerabilities, such as unpatched systems and misconfigured software—and alerts you when risk is detected. Dashboard views also allow you to identify areas of critical or excessive risk so that you can prioritize where to allocate resources.
3. Find the root cause of security flaws
Discovering security risks and vulnerabilities is important. Equally critical is knowing why they happen in the first place.
Finding the root cause of security flaws allows you to understand the underlying factors that contributed to it, and to address the issue at its source rather than simply treating the symptoms. With these insights, you can implement effective preventive measures to avoid similar vulnerabilities in the future.
Additionally, understanding the root cause helps in prioritizing remediation efforts and allocating resources effectively. It also aids in establishing accountability and improving incident response procedures. To accomplish this, you can conduct thorough incident investigations, analyze system logs, and perform forensic analysis.
And with tools like Bitsight Control Insights you can visualize how effective your security controls have been. For example, you can see whether each control is acceptable or needs improvement, track progress over time, and download reports to demonstrate security performance progress to your board.
4. Detect third-party cyber risks
Supply chain attacks are now the preferred attack vector used by threat actors. Current studies show that 62 percent of network intrusions originate from a third-party—typically someone in your digital supply chain.
A breach or compromise in a third-party system can have cascading effects, leading to data breaches, service disruptions, and reputational damage. By actively detecting third-party cyber risks, you can assess the security practices and controls of your vendors, identify potential weaknesses, and take appropriate measures to mitigate the risks as part of your cyber threat prevention strategy.
But how can you detect vulnerabilities in the networks and infrastructure of your vendors?
Best practices in this area include conducting thorough security assessments, implementing contractual agreements that enforce security requirements, regularly monitoring third-party security practices, and establishing incident response protocols in collaboration with your vendors.
Bitsight Third-Party Risk Management (TPRM) streamlines these processes, and send timely alerts when a vendor's security posture drops below your threshold. You’ll get an immediate, near real-time view of any risks or vulnerabilities in your vendors’ networks so you can collaborate on mitigating those risks and foster a more secure digital supply chain.
5. Discover and respond to zero-day vulnerabilities
Your organization increasingly runs on software, but that software can often contain vulnerabilities that attackers can exploit before the developer releases a patch. These zero-day exploits are responsible for 43 percent of the biggest vulnerabilities and recent cyberattacks, including SolarWinds.
Rapid detection allows for timely response, such as developing mitigations or workarounds, implementing network or application controls, or working closely with vendors to develop patches.
Bitsight third-party vulnerability detection & response can help you stay ahead of zero-day vulnerabilities. In addition to continuously monitoring your vendors’ security postures, when a major security event occurs, Bitsight provides dashboard views into how that vulnerability affects your entire vendor portfolio. Then, by means of efficient workflows, you can prioritize and initiate vendor outreach, track vendor responses, and see where additional action is needed to protect your organization.
By having a complete workflow in place, you'll be better equipped to control and limit the impact of newly discovered zero-day vulnerabilities on your network—for more tips, check out this blog about zero-day risk remediation.
While no security strategy is bulletproof, you can significantly reduce your organization’s risk of falling victim to cyberattacks and better protect your sensitive information and assets without placing additional burden on your security teams. By simply adopting these proactive, data-driven cyber threat prevention strategies and practicing good cyber hygiene you will gain visibility into your growing environment, reduce risk, and be well-positioned to manage potential threats.