The goal of cybersecurity is to help mitigate or prevent a cyber attack that could cause significant harm to your business, your operations, your financial performance, or your customers. But organizations with mature cybersecurity programs are increasingly aware of the fact that they cannot address every cyber threat since bad actors will continually find ways to hack and mine data. Instead, they choose to focus on preventing catastrophic attacks from taking place.
With this in mind, your cybersecurity budget should be geared toward identifying the most critical material risks to your organization which could be caused through cyber means—and reducing, mitigating, or transferring those risks.
Those risks could come from one of these three risk vectors:
- External threats—When bad actors exploit vulnerabilities in your network or try to exploit employees through spear phishing emails, for example.
- Internal threats—When bad actors have inside access to an organization and view or steal sensitive information.
- Supply chain threats—When third or fourth parties with access to your network are exploited by a bad actor.
Below, we recommend six areas on which to focus your cybersecurity spending that we believe have the most impact on your efforts.
1. Risk Management Framework Implementation
Some organizations leverage frameworks to reduce risk, like the NIST framework standards, ISO 27001, or the SANS Top 20 Critical Security Controls. If your organization chooses to implement a framework like this, you’ll likely have to budget for a consultant who can provide advice regarding building a security program that satisfies the controls therein. Not all companies choose to establish governance through such a framework, and instead focus more on solving root problems. Which way you lean on this is something your organization will have to decide.
2. Third-Party Cybersecurity
Third parties have proven to be a weak link in the cybersecurity chain—and bad actors are well aware. We’ve seen a dramatic uptick of hackers exploiting third parties in order to gain access to first-party networks and critical data.
With this in mind, it’s imperative to allocate at least a portion of your cybersecurity budget toward third-party risk management. This involves knowing where your data lives, which third parties have access to your network and/or most critical data, and how to evaluate the security posture of third parties you’re doing business with prior to entering into a business relationship. (You can read more about this process in this article, Vendor Risk Management: What Increases Your Risk & How To Combat It.)
Part of the reason hackers have so much success with third-party cyber attacks is because companies don’t have a way to monitor their vendors’ ongoing security posture.
BitSight Security Ratings alerts you immediately if a third party experiences a security issue, so you can address the issue as quickly as possible. You can also use Security Ratings before you enter into vendor contracts to assess whether their security controls are up to your standards.
3. Endpoint Security
Employees in your organization all use laptops, desktops, mobile devices, and other endpoints that connect to your network—and the majority of these devices have sensitive information on them. So it’s easy to understand how and why endpoint security should be included in your cybersecurity spending. You need to know how endpoints are being used, when and if they’ve been compromised, and how to lock down those endpoints so data cannot be exfiltrated from your system.
To determine how much of your budget to allocate to endpoint security, first identify what data is most critical to your organization, and what that data is worth. You wouldn’t spend a million dollars to protect data worth $100,000, for example. In going through this process, you’ll be able to identify and properly protect the most material data.
4. Employee Training
Some hackers rely on phishing—spoofing emails to appear legitimate and tricking employees into opening a link—to gain company network access. Unfortunately, employees often don’t how to identify suspicious emails. Thus, training employees on how to potentially identify issues with emails (like misspellings, strange syntax, altered logos, or odd email addresses) is important.
Training won’t have a large impact on your cybersecurity spending, and there’s tremendous benefit in lowering your exposure to phishing attacks—making this a wise investment. You may also consider implementing technology that automates fake phishing emails to see what actions your employees take, which could help create more targeted training sessions.
5. Privileged Users
One of the most effective ways for hackers to harm an organization is by gaining access to ‘super-user’ privileges, which opens up access to virtually any data in the organization. The best way to avoid this from happening is to limit access across your organization so individuals are only able to access data they need in order to do their job. Depending on the size of your organization, limiting user access might
6. Cyber Insurance
As previously mentioned, lowering cyber risk to your organization involves reducing, mitigating, or transferring risk. While all the budget items listed above focus on reducing or mitigating risk, purchasing cyber insurance is a good way to transfer risk.
This CIO article asserts that “any organization that stores and maintains customer information or collects online payment information, or uses the cloud, should consider adding cyber insurance to its budget.”
CIOs & CISOs: Presenting the board with actionable metrics can help make the case for your cybersecurity budget.
It’s no secret that cybersecurity is gaining in popularity as a boardroom topic—but in order for you to make the case for your cybersecurity spend, you’ll want to use board-friendly cybersecurity metrics that emphasize the need for each budget item. You can gather these metrics internally or use an business solution like BitSight Security Ratings. Find out more about how to present to the board in this article.