The main components of cyber security can seem nebulous and mysterious, as cyber security can encompass a wide array of policies, practices and processes. In reality, the core components of cyber security can be broken down into clear categories and structures. All of the components described below represent fundamental items within every cyber security framework.
8 business leader must-know components of cyber security
Table of Contents
- Application security
- Information security
- Network security
- Disaster recovery & business continuity planning
- Operational security
- Testing and tabletop exercises
- Quarterly risk discussions and planning
- Optimization and continual improvement
1. Application security
Application security represents a core component of cyber security. The purpose of application security is to guard against security vulnerabilities that could permit system access and modification. Types of application security features include authentication, authorization, encryption, logging and application security testing.
Organizations may wish to automate application security and API protection with tools powered by contextual AI. This can reduce the need to manually fine-tune rules. With modern security solutions, it’s possible to engage in precision threat-prevention without any human intervention. Other network-level application security tools include firewalls, antivirus, encryption techniques, and web application firewalls.
Because mobile devices also rely on applications, enterprises may also wish to add a layer of mobile application security. For example, IT admins can provide employees with mobile device VPN options.
2. Information security
Information security functions as a means of preventing and defending against unapproved access, use, interruption, modification or deletion of information. A core concept in information security includes the CIA triad – Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability. Learn more about this component of cyber security here:
This refers to the guarding of proprietary business and client information. In accomplishing this, organizations commonly implement zero trust and other access safeguards. Confidentiality means that unauthorized persons cannot access important business data. It also means that users who do need to access sensitive information can do so as needed.
Protecting corporate proprietary information exfiltration from competitors or nation-states must be a high priority for small businesses and, in the case of US government subcontractors, security compliance requirements are detailed and specified in CMMC and NIST 800-171. In combating confidentiality breaches and moving beyond zero trust, organizations may wish to encrypt data, use multi-factor authentication and educate users around data access policies.
In cyber security, the concept of integrity refers to maintaining consistency, accuracy and completeness of information. Information owners cannot move or alter information in ways that the parent organization has not approved. In addition, data integrity means continually ensuring that external parties have not disturbed data in any way. For example, if a given organization presents information about executives on its website, the information must meet certain unspoken integrity standards. IT administrators need to ensure that this information is not tampered with by persons of nefarious intent. Cyber criminals could potentially hack an organization’s website and manipulate the descriptions under executives’ profile photos or the photos themselves.
Data is largely dead weight unless it is available to employees within an organization, approved third-parties and relevant customers. In the CIA triad, availability refers to the notion that applications, systems, and networks must function effectively at all times. Users should be able to obtain necessary information without interference and with efficiency. In ensuring the availability of data, organizations commonly build redundancies into networks. Organizations also enhance availability by staying up-to-date in relation to software updates and security system updates.
Network security is designed to protect a network and data from breaches, intrusions and other threats. Network security functions as a vast and overarching system that protects configurations, accessibility and more. It generally involves access control, virus and antivirus software, network analytics, endpoint security, firewalls, encryption and more.
Network security is critical when it comes to protecting information. In other words, it keeps data secure, protects from viruses, and assists with network performance by reducing overhead expenses. It can also limit losses from data breaches. In the long run, network security plays a role in saving enterprises both time and financial resources.
In thinking about disaster recovery, images of generators, life jackets and space blankets likely come to mind. In cyber security, disaster recovery refers to tools and procedures used to recover from disruptions to information technology systems.
A “disaster” consists of any event that interrupts data access, apps, networks or data availability. This can range from a power outage to a DDoS or ransomware attack. Disaster recovery and business continuity plans are designed to assist organizations in overcoming these unexpected challenges.
Within disaster recovery plans, organizations commonly include recovery point objectives, recovery time objectives, remote data backup information, and accountability charts.
Disaster recovery plans are not the same as business continuity plans. The former help organizations recover from a disaster. The latter assist organizations in maintaining operations despite a disaster. For organizations with the capacity to create them, disaster recovery and business continuity plans easily justify the cost.
Operational security encourages security professionals to adopt the mindset of a cyber adversary. This component of security prevents sensitive information from actually reaching attackers. It also helps organizations highlight weak points that could accidentally open the doors to persons with nefarious intent.
The idea of operational security (OpSec) was first introduced by the military. Since then, OpSec has become popular throughout the private sector. The process involved in operational security can be described in five distinctive steps:
- Identification of data. This involves determining what data a given organization needs to protect. For example, organizations may need to protect intellectual property, financial statements, customer information and employee information.
- Identification of possible threats. For every type of data, organizations need to determine what types of threats remain likely. Are third-party threats a concern? Intellectual property theft?…etc.
- Security weakness analysis. In this step, organizations must assess current safeguards and determine which weaknesses could see exploit for the purpose of gaining access to sensitive data.
- Appraisal of risk associated with vulnerabilities. At this stage in the game, cyber security professionals need to rank vulnerabilities, determine damage potential and calculate recovery times, if breached. The greater the likelihood of an attack and the higher the level of damage, the more important it is for organizations to prioritize mitigation of associated risk.
- Implementing prevention and defense. The final step involved in operational security consists of implementing security technologies and best practices. For some organizations, mitigation and defense measures must meet industry compliance standards. This represents a key factor in determining what type or types of security a given organization needs to implement.
Cyber security testing and tabletop exercises are core elements in demonstrating cyber security maturity. Many types of testing and exercises exist. All offer opportunities to prove effective cyber security risk management and to fine-tune components of cyber security. Testing and exercises may show gaps, weaknesses, or cyber security challenges in other regards.
Testing and tabletop exercises also enable cyber security professionals to strengthen working relationships with peers. And, they can improve organizational and individual outlooks and attitudes around cyber security preparedness.
Regular risk discussions and planning represent core components of cyber security programs. In these discussion and planning meetings, experts recommend discussing immediate and long-term cyber security needs, a layered approach to cyber security, and the incident response playbook.
The final component of the cyber security lifecycle consists of determining whether or not there are any areas that can be improved upon. Organizations need to both continually add value to the business and also continually add value for customers. The continual service improvement (CSI) stage can be broken down into a multi-step process, making CSI possibilities clearer and easier to manage.
Maintaining strong organizational or company security can be tough. The components of cyber security can seem inordinately complex. But the reality is that they can be sliced and diced in ways that are meaningful to a variety of different industry players and stakeholders. Understanding the components of cyber security can serve to inform decisions, leading to stronger overall business outcomes, no matter your role.
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