Organizations commonly recognize the need for cybersecurity preparedness measures, but often fail to execute on implementation or expansion initiatives. The term ‘cybersecurity preparedness’ refers to idea of identifying, preventing and responding to cyber threats.

Nation-state intrusions, ransomware attacks, and zero-day exploits continue to ravage organizations and can create catastrophic damage. By some counts, more than 2,000 cyber attacks occur each day, equating to roughly one attack every 39 seconds.

But despite awareness concerning attacks, nearly 80% of organizations believe that they would not withstand a serious cyber incursion. Why the discrepancy between knowledge and readiness?

Why is it that organizations feel so under-prepared and how can organizations increase cyber security maturity? In this article, discover how to move towards increased levels of cybersecurity preparedness.

Top cybersecurity preparedness measures

Here’s how your organization can increase cybersecurity preparedness.

Maintain a dedicated security team

Having a security team can lower expenses in the long-run. The average lost or stolen record costs an organization $148.00. When an organization maintains a dedicated cybersecurity team, the average cost per record drops to $133.00. When contending with compromises involving hundreds of thousands of records, this cost difference becomes significant. Beyond that, the expeditious identification of a breach and timely mitigation can also substantially lower breach costs.

If your organization cannot dedicate resources to an in-house cybersecurity team, consider outsourcing cyber security needs to a Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP) or another specialized firm. Outsourcing cybersecurity needs can offer protection while allowing smaller business operators to focus on core business activities and profit-drivers.

Continually assess cybersecurity readiness

Assess this via regular audits, NIST frameworks, SANS lists of critical security controls, third-party management questionnaires, and best practices rubrics. Ensure that your organization accounts for your entire attack surface and those of vendor partners. Tier your vendors in order to determine how to scrutinize them. As you read through assessment results, you will ultimately be able to optimize allocation of cyber security resources. In turn, your organization will increase its level of cybersecurity readiness and cybersecurity preparedness.

Protect employee and client information

Limit the extent to which your organization shares employee data and client data both within and outside of your organization. In addition, ensure that data is stored securely and that your IT teams have multiple data backups (following the 3-2-1 approach) in the event of cyber encryption, loss, or physical destruction. Consider working with a secure data storage service that can encrypt and store data in real-time. You never know – a cyber attack could occur at any moment.

Zero trust access controls

Leverage the principles of zero trust to increase protections within your organization. Limit access privileges to those who really require such permissions, rather than freely granting them to all employee users. In the event of credential compromise, this can prevent cyber criminals from gaining access to an organization’s most valuable resources.

Zero trust security solutions can also enable organizations to prevent infected devices from accessing corporate data and accesses; from mobile devices, to workstations, to Industrial Control Systems.

Segment networks

The segregation of critical networks and services can stop cyber intruders from reaching (and potentially stealing or encrypting) the entirety of an organization’s digital assets and resources. Micro-segmentation –made possible by software-defined networking- is a security technique that falls under the network segmentation umbrella and that can also help organizations achieve stronger network security.

Hunt for network intrusions

Organizations can proactively take steps to detect, isolate and remove any malicious presence within a network. Passive detection mechanisms can help security experts effectively carry this out. Leverage logs, Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) products, Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) solutions and other data analytics tools. Active threat hunting can also include ‘hunt operations’, red-teaming and penetration testing.

Transition users to multi-factor authentication

For accounts with elevated privileges, remote access and/or that store high-value assets, focus on multi-factor authentication. The use of multi-factor authentication can prevent breaches in the event of credential compromise. Credentials are vulnerable to brute force attacks, password spraying, and third-party theft; underscoring the need for multi-factor authentication. Multi-factor authentication simply serves as another layer of security that helps with cybersecurity preparedness.

Implement a realistic response plan

Organizations focused on risk mitigation may implement the right policies and protocols while neglecting incident response. Planning for how to handle a cyber attack is as critical as planning and implementing prevention strategies. Failure to build an incident response plan can result in delayed forensics investigations, longer times-to-remediation, and higher long-term costs.

Organizations often maintain unique internal structures, and retain unique digital valuables (legally protected information – credit card numbers, health information…etc). As a result, your organization may wish to avoid a “prescribed” incident response plan. Ensure that your organization has a confirmed processes for escalating an incident through the organization. Also ensure that your teams know when to bring in external assistance.

Once you’ve developed your plan, ensure that you test emergency scenarios via drills. The first run-through of an incident response plan should not occur in parallel with an actual cyber attack.

Cybersecurity preparedness as everyone’s job

Every employee within an organization bears some level of responsibility for keeping the organization cyber secure. Roughly 85% of cybersecurity incidents involve a human element. Ninety percent of cyber attacks start out with a suspicious email sent to an employee and 63% of cyber compromises occur on account of weak or stolen passwords.

To reinforce employees’ roles as “cyber warriors,” implement cyber security awareness training programs. Reiterate the need for strong passwords, proper password management practices, frequent security updates, and caution around sharing information or transferring resources without identity verification.

Further thoughts

How can your organization upgrade its cybersecurity preparedness via responsible cybersecurity practices? See these resources:

The specter of unpredictable nation-state attacks makes cybersecurity preparedness a must. Adopt a security-first mentality and ensure that your organization stays ahead of cyber risk.

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