How to Develop Your First Company Cybersecurity Strategy
Cybersecurity is what protects your company’s important information from threats such as malware and data breaches. A cybersecurity strategy sets out the current risks facing your company’s IT system, how you plan to prevent them, and what to do if they occur.
Let this article be your one-stop guide to developing an effective cybersecurity strategy. We’ll discuss cybersecurity risk assessments and all the other elements that need to be included in the strategy. To start off, let’s talk about why cybersecurity is so important for today’s businesses.
The importance of cybersecurity
It seems fair to say that now, we rely on the Internet and IT more than ever before. As this technology becomes more essential to a company’s everyday operations, it unfortunately becomes a bigger target for attacks. Simply complying with cybersecurity regulations won’t protect your organization—you have to be more proactive.
Cybersecurity is vital at every level—from employees’ mobile phones and laptops all the way up to centralized servers. It’s as crucial to your business’s success as having a firm grasp on customer service and a reliable product. A cybersecurity strategy takes all the information about every level of security and their potential attacks, and sets it out in one comprehensive document.
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The strongest cybersecurity approaches tailor the strategy to the device they’re protecting. For example, an SSL works best for web servers, while two-factor user authentication is better suited to apps.
Comprehensive cybersecurity defenses are especially important if your business operations rely on any software integration services. It’s handy to link together all the apps and accounts that a company uses but, if not properly protected, they can provide many routes for an attack.
Establishing these cybersecurity basics before we look at strategy is key, but the focus of this article really is that strategy document. If you want to learn more about the background of cybersecurity, though, we recommend finding blog resources like this one, attending a web conference led by experts, or reading cybersecurity whitepapers.
Benefits of a strong cybersecurity strategy:
- Protects against threats before they happen
- Provides a response plan for if attacks do occur
- Increases your company’s cyber resilience
- Improves your team’s computer literacy
- Reduces long-term operating costs
A risk assessment is the foundation of any cybersecurity strategy. How can you defend against malicious attacks when you don’t even know what you’re dealing with? It can be hard to keep on top of the many applications and softwares your teams use.
Risk assessments look at the kinds of information your company works with, and therefore, what cyber criminals would be trying to obtain if they attacked you. From there, you can assess what types of cybersecurity attacks your company needs to prepare for.
Cyber risk combines two key elements, both of which need to be addressed in your risk assessment and strategy:
- How vulnerable the company is to cyberattacks.
- What disruptions an attack could cause for the company.
To understand both of these, we need to look at the cyber threat landscape.
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The cyber threat landscape
What we call the ‘cyber threat landscape’ covers all potential and recognized cyberattacks categorized by industry, region, or user. Our understanding of cyber threats is more accurate than ever before, thanks to cutting-edge research.
The threats facing a business depend heavily on its industry and the information it processes. For example, if a call center company’s call analytics software faced a cyberattack, customer phone numbers and caller ID information could potentially be at risk.
Cyberattacks can also be geographically specific if the criminals rely on exploiting regional security laws or practices.
85% of cyberattacks start from the “human factor,” so this is a major concern in the threat landscape. These attacks manipulate real people (employees and customers) to get information that gives them access to a vulnerable computer system.
We’ll go into more detail about preventing human factor attacks later on in this article.
Top 5 cyber threats to watch out for:
- Denial of Service attacks
- Malware and ransomware
- Compromised accounts
- Insider threats
- Data breaches/data loss
Image sourced from intellipaat.com
The 3 levels of cyber risk
Your risk assessment should include a rating of how severe a particular risk is—low, medium, or high. This risk can be thought of as a calculation: multiply the severity of the threat by the system’s vulnerability, and then by the information value.
Take the values you get and group them into low, medium, and high risk. Splitting all the cybersecurity risks into levels makes it easier to prioritize what needs addressing first. Remember to include these risk levels in your cybersecurity strategy document.
Cybersecurity strategies: the what and why
These risk assessments and threat analyses will form a large chunk of your cybersecurity strategy document. But there are a few more sections needed for a fully watertight strategy.
Your overall aim is to make a strategy that is proactive, not reactive. This means that you’re working to predict attacks and prevent them before they happen. Relying on a reactive incident-driven strategy makes your company more vulnerable to cyberattacks.
Analysis of the cyber threat landscape means you can craft a well-informed strategy. Strong strategy leads you directly to stronger policy decisions. Your company cybersecurity policy should be guided by the analysis and plans in your strategy document, not the other way around.
You should also review the strategy regularly. Technology changes every single day so keep updated! Creating strong passwords is a classic example of this. Initially it was seen as sufficient to include a few numbers at the end of what was most likely your pet’s name, but nowadays, we’re often advised to use a random collection of numbers, letters and special characters.
When crafting your own cybersecurity strategy, it’s beneficial to draw inspiration from robust examples in the field. Consider how successful organizations structure their cybersecurity plans and integrate those insights into your approach.
They might start their strategy with a clear statement of purpose, outlining the strategy’s objectives and its alignment with broader organizational goals—a practice that can be quite instructive.
Within the document, you’d typically find sections dedicated to identifying threats, vulnerabilities, and risks—elements that mirror the risk assessment principles discussed before. A noteworthy strategy would also emphasize the importance of a proactive stance, possibly through a section on ‘Critical Success Factors’. This reflects a commitment to continuous improvement and underscores the necessity of regular reviews and employee training to adapt to the evolving cyber threat landscape.
The strategy would then likely segue into implementation, detailing how the organization plans to execute its cybersecurity measures. This could involve a mix of employee training, technological defenses, and perhaps even cyberattack simulations to ensure the strategy is not just theoretical but actionable.
By emulating such a structured, dynamic approach, you can create a cybersecurity strategy that’s both comprehensive and adaptable, tailored to your company’s specific needs.
Testing and training
Training employees on how to spot potential security breaches is the key to preventing those “human factor” threats. Any cybersecurity strategy needs to pay attention to both human and technology factors.
Employees should be able to spot scam emails and untrustworthy links. Training needs to cover all the possible routes for a cyberattack. For example, a hacked phone system could be the source of a data breach, or a criminal could pretend to be an innocent caller and manipulate a customer service employee into revealing the information they want. Some malware can actually target your development software and infect other projects on your system.
Like every other aspect of the cybersecurity strategy, the training should be tailored to your individual company. For the previous contact center example, for instance, the strategy might vary depending on whether your business uses toll-free numbers for business.
If you’re using an external consultant or agency to provide cybersecurity training, double check that the training aligns with your strategy goals. Shared cloud documents are great for creating a specialized training plan that works for both parties.
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Any office will have emergency procedures for incidents like fires. Cyberattack drills work just like fire drills—they test the efficiency of your crisis response without any real risk.
It is vital to run these drills alongside cybersecurity training for employees. Your cybersecurity strategy should include details of how often you’ll run drills, and how you’ll assess a successful response.
Assess your company’s response after each drill. Data analytics and machine learning can offer even more detailed insights on what happened during the attack and how employees responded.
And there you have it—a complete guide to developing your first company cybersecurity strategy! We’ve covered a lot of information here, so we’ll leave you with the key points to take away:
- Cybersecurity is important for every part of the computer network.
- Cyber threat landscapes vary between industries and business models.
- Rating cyber risks by severity helps prioritize threats.
- Align your cybersecurity strategy with the company’s wider goals.
- Keep the strategy updated and conduct regular drills and reviews.
A cybersecurity strategy document is an essential part of any modern company’s arsenal in this age of rapid change. Practice makes perfect, of course, but we hope that this article has given you a strong foundation for making your first company cybersecurity strategy!