Cybersecurity Readiness (Definition and 4 Evaluation Steps)

Cybersecurity Readiness: What Is It and How Do You Evaluate Yours?

What is cyber readiness?

Cybersecurity readiness is the ability to identify, prevent, and respond to cyber threats.

Yet despite the daily headlines and warnings, organizations struggle to achieve cybersecurity readiness. Just look at the statistics: 78% of senior IT and security leaders lack confidence in their company’s security posture. And, despite increased investments in cybersecurity controls, nearly 80% believe their organization lacks sufficient cybersecurity protections. 

Furthermore, when an incident happens, security teams aren’t always ready. The average time to identify and contain a breach in 2020 was 280 days.

Don’t fall in line with one of these statistics. Here are four things you can do to evaluate and improve your organization’s cybersecurity readiness: 

1. Continuously assess your cybersecurity readiness

A tried and tested way to evaluate cybersecurity readiness is through regular audits and assessments. But these can be costly and time-consuming – especially if you need to outsource the task. Cyber risk assessments are also limited because they capture only a point-in-time view of your security posture and don’t account for emerging risks and threats.

Another complication is that your digital ecosystem is expanding – into the cloud, across business units and subsidiaries, and over remote networks – creating a vast attack surface that is hard to assess using traditional methods.

A better way to assess cyber risk is to continuously monitor your digital ecosystem using a tool like security ratings.

Security ratings are data-driven measurements of enterprise-wide security performance. Derived from objective, verifiable information, ratings help assess risk and the likelihood of a data breach based on risk factors such as open ports, misconfigured software, malware infections, exposed credentials, and weak security controls.

Findings are presented as a numerical score – much like a credit score – making it easy for non-technical stakeholders to understand your organization’s cybersecurity readiness. Because security ratings are captured in near real time, they also quicken the time to discovery and close the time to respond.

Security ratings are also a helpful tool to help you quickly determine if your security practices align with cybersecurity frameworks like NIST.

2. Evaluate the cybersecurity readiness of your vendors

One of the potential weak links in any organization’s cybersecurity readiness is third parties. Risks include sophisticated software supply chain attacks, like the recent SolarWinds hack. They can also happen when an attacker exploits a vendor’s weak security controls and moves up the digital supply chain until it finds its target. If the vendor, such as a payroll provider, has access to your data or systems, then your organization could be vulnerable to a breach.

To mitigate third-party cyber risk, take steps to ensure that your vendors and third parties are doing everything they can, and may be required to do based on your contract, to protect their networks and act appropriately when interacting with or handling sensitive data. Again, one-time assessments aren’t enough. Instead, check out these tips for building a third-party risk management plan. They include best practices for tiering vendors according to their criticality to your business, continuously monitoring their security performance, and working collaboratively with partners to resolve any issues.

3. Develop a realistic incident response plan

Too often, organizations focus their cyber risk mitigation efforts on bolstering security controls but fail to plan how they will proceed when an attack is underway, leading to costly delays in discovery and remediation.

This is not surprising. Incident response plans are static, don’t factor in emerging risk, and quickly become outdated. Another challenge is that CISOs can’t plan for every cyber risk scenario. If they did, these plans would run hundreds of pages long.

Because every organization is unique, try to avoid a prescribed incident response plan. But there are a few things your plan must include to cover the basics – and we’ve listed them in this blog: 4 Things You Should Include In Your Data Breach Response Plan.

And because practice makes perfect, be sure to conduct simulated emergency scenarios and drills so that everyone knows what role they play and the appropriate actions they must take.  

4. Approach cybersecurity readiness as everyone's responsibility

Because 85% of cyber attacks involve a human element, countering bad actors falls on each individual in your organization.

In addition to implementing basic cybersecurity controls like firewalls, intrusion detection, and VPNs, take steps to ensure your employees understand their role as cyber soldiers. Use your cyber awareness training program to educate users on best practices. Reinforce the need for password hygiene (63% of data breaches result from weak or stolen passwords), frequent system updates, and cautious file sharing. And, because 91% of cyber attacks start with a suspicious email link, condition employees and security teams to be phishing-ready.

Cybersecurity readiness is more important now than ever

We live in an uncertain and unpredictable cyber-world, but you can better protect against the risks your organization faces each day by being cyber-ready. But remember, cybersecurity readiness is an ongoing effort, and continuous monitoring of your digital ecosystem and that of your third parties is key to evaluating digital resilience and staying ahead of cyber risk.