In an ever-evolving cybersecurity landscape, organisations face the daunting challenge of effectively managing their security initiatives. This responsibility falls not only on the IT teams, but also on the board of directors, who play a critical role in overseeing the organisation’s cybersecurity strategy.
Jason Whyte, general manager for Pacific, Trustwave, said, “To drive meaningful progress and ensure a robust security posture, it’s essential for the C-suite and the board to collaborate and focus on three key areas: coverage, consolidation, and assurance. By addressing these critical elements, organisations can optimise their cybersecurity investments, enhance operational efficiency, and proactively safeguard against emerging threats.”
One of the fundamental challenges in cybersecurity is distinguishing between the actions an organisation takes and the outcomes it can control. Investing significant resources into cybersecurity, and doing all the right things, doesn’t ensure you will avoid a cyber incident. At the same time, businesses can spend nothing on cybersecurity and nothing bad will happen. In fact, many businesses spend zero dollars on cybersecurity and never experience an incident; however, that doesn’t mean they are managing their risk well, just that they haven’t been targeted.
Most cyber security breaches happen to organisations that are not missing the control required to stop that breach. They just don’t have the control deployed to a particular system, at a particular time, or it isn’t operating effectively.
Jason Whyte said, “At the end of the day, the question shouldn’t be ‘are we secure?’ but rather ‘how well are we managing the elements of security that we need to be managing?’”
Once an organisation has determined the security controls needed in order to manage its risk effectively, the key becomes monitoring the degree to which those controls are fully implemented. How compliant are you with your patching policy? Do you really test all your web applications? Do all your data bases implement encryption of sensitive data on storage?
Organisations are large and complex, and IT environments of any size will always have edge cases that make things difficult: systems that get spun up in an emergency so don’t get tested on time; key applications that stop working when a patch is applied so go unpatched for a period of time; and so on. As a result, achieving 100 per cent coverage consistently is impractical (or unreasonably costly).
Jason Whyte said, “Focusing on getting existing controls from a 95 per cent coverage level to a 99 per cent or 100 per cent coverage level, will often get significantly greater value than adding more partially deployed controls. Over time, organisations can increase these thresholds, gradually improving their security environment while aligning with risk tolerances.”
Security requirements don’t exist in a vacuum. They are determined with reference to what a business does, the risks it faces, and its risk appetite. While “what a business does” is often considered a fait accompli, doing so can risk making poor economic decisions about the way security is approached.
Reducing security requirements can be a viable strategy to optimise resources and costs. Organisations often overlook the opportunity to reshape their business processes to avoid unnecessary security expenses. For instance, by outsourcing certain functions, such as development or data management, organisations can shift those specific security needs to specialised service providers.
Additionally, evaluating regulatory compliance and considering alternatives, like shutting down non-core business lines or restructuring operations, can lead to significant cost savings. As an example, it may well have made sense to set up a ‘loyalty program’ many years ago, but as that program has now evolved into a fully-fledged financial service, and the security requirements accompanying it are an order of magnitude greater than the core business it is intended to support, it may well be that exiting that business – and removing the security obligations – is the most cost-effective way to deploy capital.
By aligning security measures with business objectives, organisations can channel investments towards focused controls that yield greater impact.
While implementing security controls is crucial, organisations must go beyond blind trust. It’s imperative to validate that the controls put in place are effectively addressing the identified risks. The notion of “trust but verify” must be ingrained in cybersecurity practices. This approach ensures that controls are fit-for-purpose and capable of effectively mitigating threats. Organisations should adopt industry-recognised practices for control validation and verification, empowering them to make informed decisions regarding the efficacy of their security measures. By continuously evaluating and adapting controls, organisations can bolster their security posture and build resilience against emerging threats.
Furthermore, it’s important to recognise that maximising the impact of cybersecurity investments requires collaboration and shared resources, particularly for smaller organisations with limited budgets. Government agencies have realised this need and established cyber hubs and shared services to support smaller agencies. In the private sector, managed security service providers (MSSPs) offer a way for organisations to access comprehensive security capabilities without having to build them internally.
Jason Whyte said, “By focusing on coverage, consolidation, and assurance, organisations can optimise their cybersecurity investments, streamline operations, and build a resilient security posture. It’s crucial to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of security measures rather than blindly increasing the number of controls.”
“More controls don’t always mean better protection. Instead, organisations should strive to do more with less, maximising the value derived from their cybersecurity investments. Rather than spreading resources thin across a shopping list of security technologies, it’s often more beneficial to concentrate efforts on a smaller number of high-impact controls. By investing in a focused and targeted manner, organisations can achieve a greater impact on their security posture.”