As digital IT infrastructures become more essential components of a company’s overall system, the threat of cyber security risks also grows. Neglecting cybersecurity is costly to all enterprises, causing approximately $6 trillion in damages worldwide in 2021.
The best strategy for managing the risk of cybersecurity threats is to take proactive steps to eliminate or mitigate the risks before an incident occurs. Here are six essential strategies for mitigating your company’s cybersecurity risks, protecting sensitive data, and implementing comprehensive cybersecurity risk management solutions.
Make Sure Your Software is Updated in a Timely Manner
One of the most common sources of cyber threats to your company is also one of the most preventable. Cybercriminals thrive on outdated software, which often contains unaddressed vulnerabilities.
Although this essential aspect of IT security is often neglected, failing to update work software and equipment exposes your company to security risks. Hackers and other malicious actors exploit the vulnerabilities in outdated software to launch cyber attacks, resulting in data breaches.
Fortunately, many software vendors offer automated software updates and upgrades, simplifying the process. Automated upgrade services provide immediate software upgrades as soon as they become available, minimizing work disruptions while ensuring your software has the latest security patches.
Taking advantage of automated update services can help minimize negligence risks and is crucial to protecting your company data from cybercriminals.
Implement a Robust User Rights and Permissions Policy
A practical but often underutilized risk management strategy relates not to the company’s IT infrastructure but to its staff. Every staff member uses the company’s software and network, often with different responsibilities.
The more powerful a user account, the more access rights and permissions it possesses. While giving users comprehensive access rights can expedite many processes, they also represent a significant security risk.
For instance, if a user account with excessive permissions is compromised or misused, a malicious actor may gain access to data they are not intended to access, heightening the risk of business data theft, corruption, or destruction.
The best way to prevent this from occurring is to limit the number of user accounts with administrative or highly permissive access rights. An example implementation is to develop a multi-tiered user rights and permissions policy that matches the responsibilities of each user type in the company.
Ensure Compliance with a Recognized Cybersecurity Framework
Although developing a bespoke cybersecurity framework specifically for the company’s needs can be effective if they are unique and well-defined, a more efficient solution for most organizations is to adopt a recognized cybersecurity framework.
Organizations such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) offer comprehensive cybersecurity standards designed to identify risks, manage threats, and define cybersecurity best practices, regardless of the company’s size or industry. Compliance with a recognized cybersecurity framework can be an essential step for companies looking to minimize cyber-threats
The International Organization for Standardization has offered an international standard certification in IT security through its ISO 27001 international standard.
ISO 27001 is an excellent means of developing a comprehensive and proactive security posture throughout all levels of a company or organization. In particular, ISO 27001 certification will help a company establish and maintain proper data security and lower the risk of future data breaches.
In addition to ISO 27001, the National Institute of Standards and Technology offers its own cybersecurity standard through NIST CSF. Like ISO 27001, NIST CSF provides companies and organizations with a comprehensive framework for mitigating cybersecurity risks. NIST CSF defines five essential pillars of cybersecurity: Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, and Recover.
Additionally, NIST CSF is fully size-, country-, sector-, and regulatory-agnostic, meaning this framework is accessible to virtually any company or organization.
Implement a Dual Cyber Security and Physical Security Based Approach
One of the best ways to identify threats and vulnerabilities and prevent cybersecurity breaches is by expanding your security focus beyond the company’s networks. Though remote hacks and data breaches can account for most cyber attacks, you should not underestimate the role physical security breaches can play in your overall cybersecurity.
Physical threats range from accidental or negligent behavior, like employees dropping important flash drives or leaving their browsers open with critical information, to more significant issues, like break-ins and theft of computers or mobile devices.
By implementing a dual cyber security and physical security approach, you can provide your company with a much more comprehensive security focus that prevents cyber and physical security breaches.
Perform a Cybersecurity Risk Assessment
Proactive cyber risk management often requires precise assessments of vulnerabilities within your IT infrastructure. A cybersecurity risk assessment is an excellent method for locating potential vulnerabilities in your system before malicious actors can exploit them for a cyber-attack.
If you are working with a managed IT service partner like NTM, your managed service plan should include comprehensive risk assessment services. A risk assessment will identify any insecure programs, outdated and vulnerable software, exposed data, and potential viruses and malware within your system.
Risk assessments can also perform network penetration tests to see how well your system is protected against intrusions and external attacks.
Finally, managed service providers also offer thorough threat intelligence reports on the most significant potential threats to your company and which aspects of your systems and networks may be vulnerable to these threats.
Thorough cybersecurity risk assessments should also provide you with security ratings that give you a good idea of how well-prepared your company’s IT infrastructure is against potential cyber threats.
By analyzing your company’s security ratings, you can better understand the effectiveness of your current security controls and measures and determine whether they need to be updated or modified.
Develop a Cybersecurity Incident Response Plan
Proper cybersecurity risk identification and mitigation strategies will substantially lower the likelihood of your company falling victim to a cyber attack. However, it is crucial to remember that zero-risk does not exist, even with the best protocols and measures in place.
If an attack does succeed, having a thorough incident response plan is essential. Although the nature of cybersecurity incidents may vary, most incident response plans include remote data backup measures, disaster recovery processes, and other measures to recover and return to regular business operations.
Consequently, each team member must understand their respective responsibilities following an incident. Without such a plan, employees and team members, especially those without technical expertise, may be unable to recognize unsafe behavior or network usage, potentially worsening the damage.
The primary purpose of an incident response plan is to define each employee’s roles and responsibilities, define safe and unsafe behavior, and outline a clear path to recovery. Having such a plan improves your company’s ability to recover from incidents and ensures your team is adequately educated in safe IT practices, reducing the likelihood of a future breach.
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