Initially, business continuity referred to an organization’s ability to survive a catastrophic event or a natural disaster. However, with the expansion of successful cyber attacks, business continuity now refers to recovering from large-scale attacks with minimal operational and financial impact.
With that in mind, we can also note a change in the role of cybersecurity. What was once required only to comply with government regulations is now a vital component in any organization’s business continuity strategies. It’s also crucial for protecting sensitive data, operational intelligence, and intellectual property.
So, the big question is, how can you establish security strategies that validate security within an organization. Below, we share the most essential tips.
Prioritizing can help you identify threats you should be most concerned about. To do that, you need to have intelligence about what threats are most likely to target your company. Such data should inform what attackers would do next, who would be their target, and potential methods they would use. This will enable you to identify threats proactively and effectively align business risk and security programs and align the security programs against the most likely threats.
The type of assessment you need will depend on several factors, such as who is asking you for validation and what types they are asking for. For example, you should consider whether you need to perform a SOC 1 compliance audit or your organization needs to obtain an ISO 27001 certification.
To assess your security effectiveness accurately, focus on real-world attacks instead of simulated ones. Real-world attacks can accurately show what your organization’s strengths and weaknesses are here. On the other hand, simulated attacks are incomplete and can provide a sense of security. Also, consider doing a comprehensive threat coverage focused on both technical attacks and adversary tactics across multiple vectors.
To validate security within your organization, it’s crucial to assess how your security controls perform against the most relevant attacks. Consider how you can set a quantified baseline of the current cyber security level and how you can measure the relevance of threat intelligence and the risk of a potential attack. Moreover, define how you will gather qualitative evidence to demonstrate the effectiveness and use that evidence to drive improvement.
This requires performing actual attacks executed safely in your environment across the complete lifecycle of the attack kill chain. Real attacks provide an accurate picture of how the implemented technologies perform independently and in relation to people, processes, and policies. Consider executing multi-layered and multi-staged attacks, as well as individual behaviors or attacks.
Based on the weaknesses the security controls measurement will reveal, you should optimize the performance. Ideally, you should keep testing continuously to neutralize the impact of changes in the IT environment on security performance.
If you want to optimize the control’s performance properly, consider integrating with threat intelligence. Using third-party threat intelligence makes the intel more actionable and correlates validation efforts with specific threats, actors, and behaviors. Additionally, perform validation across IT infrastructure, including network, cloud, and email. Finally, understand how your company is performing in relation to frameworks such as NIST or MITRE ATT&CK and align controls’ performance to them.
Once you optimize the controls, you should determine whether adding or removing control impacts the company's performance and risk profile. Using testing data can help you demonstrate an improvement in value over time. Companies should also be able to pinpoint if there are any overlaps and try to cut costs without affecting risk.
This part of security validation requires controls-specific assurance visibility that shows each control's attack posture and ability to detect specific triggers. Additionally, it requires detailed evidence of flow and event and an ability to gauge threat families.
Changes in the IT environment may have an effect on security performance. Consequently, it’s crucial to monitor and measure effectiveness continually. This process requires automated execution of attack behaviors and automated testing and security zones to detect environmental changes with the ability to alert on associated security risks. Moreover, proper monitoring requires the automatic discovery of security controls such as proxy, DLP, SIEM, and malware analysis tools.
In today’s business climate, every organization needs to validate security performance to ensure business continuity. With cyber-attacks on the rise, you need a methodological approach to security validation based on the steps we’ve outlined above. The steps we’ve outlined are necessary for pinpointing the vulnerabilities and gaps. They also help determine what adjustments are needed to improve the controls’ effectiveness, ensuring continued financial and operational continuity.