5 Steps to Creating a Cyber Security Roadmap

The recent rise in ransomware attacks and business-halting data breaches has made it clear that your organization must prioritize cyber security performance. But ad hoc security controls and defensive measures are not the answer. Instead, you need a strategic, risk-based approach with a cyber security road map as your guide.  

Here are five steps to creating your organization’s cyber security roadmap.

1. Understand and monitor your organization's attack surface

One of the reasons why threat actors are so successful is that they can exploit risk hidden in complex and expanding digital ecosystems.

Today’s organizations have hundreds of thousands of digital assets located on-premises, in the cloud, across geographies, business units, and subsidiaries – making it hard to pinpoint where risk may exist. It may be a misconfigured firewall (like the one that resulted in the massive Capital One data breach), an open port, or an unpatched system.

Because of this, the first step to creating a cyber security roadmap is to identify risk throughout your organization’s digital portfolio. One way to do this is to continuously scan your organization’s attack surface to gain a complete view of the vulnerable points. You can run a scan at any time to quickly visualize the location of your digital assets – including cloud instances and shadow IT – and the corresponding cyber risk associated with each.  

Your cyber security roadmap must also include a plan to continuously monitor your organization’s cyber security performance. With BitSight for Security Performance Management, you can continuously monitor for and immediately identify gaps in your security controls, such as vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and unpatched systems — across your on-premise, cloud, and remote office environments. Use this insight to create informed improvement plans, and measure success over time.  

2. Benchmark your cyber security performance

Next, you need to understand what security performance targets you should aim for and where you fall short. A helpful approach is to benchmark your security program against other organizations of similar size in your industry. This will allow you to make more informed decisions about where to focus your cyber security efforts. 

You can also share your benchmark assessment with executives and board members so they understand how your program aligns with industry standards. From here, they can develop improvement plans and allocate resources where they’ll have the greatest impact.

3. Understand and mitigate third-party risk

Third parties are an essential part of your business ecosystem, but they also introduce cyber risks of their own. Supply chain attacks, like the SolarWinds hack, are becoming increasingly common, and mitigating these risks must be factored into your cyber security roadmap.

Perhaps you already audit your vendors’ security postures, but risk is evolving, and traditional point-in-time assessments don’t cut it in today’s threat landscape. A better way to conduct these assessments is to use a tool like BitSight Security Ratings.

Security ratings provide an instantaneous, near real-time snapshot of each vendor’s security posture with a higher rating signifying better security performance. Use them before onboarding and across the life of the relationship to quickly assess risk. For example, if a vendor acquires another company or expands its technology portfolio, you can run a report to understand if the vendor’s security posture has changed. This is particularly important if the vendor has access to sensitive data, such as payroll, legal, or accounting information.

To ensure vendors are doing everything they can to meet your desired security performance targets, establish acceptable risk thresholds and incorporate these into contracts, much like an SLA. If the vendor’s rating falls below that score, an alert is generated, and the appropriate department can engage the vendor to initiate remediation.

Read more about how to conduct a supply chain risk assessment at scale.

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4. Prioritize cyber security awareness and skills training

Even if you resolve every vulnerability and secure every asset in your digital ecosystem, if a single employee clicks on a link in a phishing email or connects to the corporate network from a public Wi-Fi connection, your organization is at risk. In fact, 85% of cyberattacks involve a human element – whether intentional or unintentional.

To mitigate this risk, plan for frequent cyber security awareness training sessions. Set a regular cadence that is right for your employees. Start with a four-to-six-month timeframe, then test your employees to gauge their recall and modify the training schedule accordingly. Topics to focus on include proper password management, Wi-Fi safety, the importance of patching, and so on.

Also include a plan for maturing the skills of your security team. Refer to this Cyber Security Skills Roadmap from SANS. It recommends key training areas based on job role and specialty.

5. Communicate the state of security to the board

Board members are critical stakeholders in cyber security. If a breach occurs and there is financial or reputational damage, the board will be held accountable. As such, they need to know the status of the organization’s security program. However, developing reports that accurately represent this information isn’t easy. Pulling metrics from various systems takes time. Those reports also need to meaningfully convey the impact of risk-reduction programs and identify where further investment or resources are required.

BitSight can help. Our centralized reporting capabilities make it easy to prepare cyber risk reports for executive leaders. Gain access to comprehensive information about the security performance of your organization, your financial exposure through cyber risk quantification, as well as the risk present in your vendor ecosystem – in one place. You can also run audience-based reports with straightforward facts about the impact of budgets and resources, which risk-based decisions performed best, and more.

A cyber security roadmap for your path to a secure environment

Before you rush to invest in the latest and greatest new security controls, refer to your cyber security roadmap. Think of it as a strategic guide that can help you gain a clear, data-driven understanding of risk. With these insights, you can better align your security program with business goals, prioritize security investments, measure success, and continually improve.