Cybersecurity gap assessments are critical to evaluating the effectiveness of the security controls you implement, ensuring your organization remains protected from threats throughout the year. So what is a gap assessment, and how can it help you optimize your security posture? Read our blog to learn more about these assessments.
What is Cybersecurity Gap Assessment?
Cybersecurity gap assessments enable your organization to systematically evaluate security risks before they can materialize into full-blown threats. To briefly explore the ins and outs of conducting gap assessments, this blog will cover:
- An overview of cybersecurity gap assessments
- How to perform a gap analysis across your assets
- Examples of cybersecurity gap assessments
With the help of a managed security services provider (MSSP), your organization will effectively conduct cybersecurity gap assessments to protect your sensitive digital assets in the short and long term.
What is a Gap Assessment?
A cybersecurity gap assessment is a tool your organization can use to identify weaknesses and vulnerabilities within its cybersecurity infrastructure. Conducting these assessments is critical to promptly discovering these gaps before they can develop into full-blown, high-impact threats.
If your organization handles sensitive data, you will likely need to conduct frequent gap assessments to uncover vulnerabilities that might pose risks to these data.
Compliance with regulatory frameworks like the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standards (DSS) and SOC 2 requires gap assessments to address potential data security risks early in their lifecycle. As with any other assessment, you must fully understand why you are doing it and how best to approach it without impacting your organization’s operations.
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How to Conduct an Effective Gap Assessment
In general, the approach for conducting gap assessments is similar across regulatory frameworks. However, each cybersecurity gap assessment will likely look different, depending on the type of data you handle or your industry. Many of these gap assessment requirements are adapted from the NIST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF), providing industry-standard guidelines for uncovering security gaps and vulnerabilities that can impact data sensitivity.
To provide additional context for how to conduct gap assessments, we’ll review examples of gap analysis from the PCI DSS and SOC 2 compliance requirements.
PCI DSS Gap Assessments
PCI DSS gap assessments are based on the framework’s 12 Requirements, which protect cardholder data (CHD) at rest and in transit. Taking the example of a PCI DSS gap assessment requirements, you can conduct a gap analysis by:
- Evaluating system-wide security – It is highly likely that your system components may have vulnerabilities and gaps you haven’t yet identified, but can only discover with a gap analysis. By evaluating these components across your organization, you can identify gaps like:
- Networks with poorly configured firewalls
- Web application vulnerabilities (e.g., broken access controls)
- Poor cryptographic algorithms
- Assessing sensitive data safeguards – It is also crucial to verify that the safeguards currently protecting your sensitive data are functioning effectively and remain up-to-date with industry standards. Gaps to look out for include:
- Excessive collection or storage of sensitive data
- The unsecured flow of potentially malicious traffic into sensitive data environments
- Evaluating risk management – Risks may include threats, vulnerabilities, and other security gaps, which, if left unaddressed, can result in cyberattacks and data breaches. A thorough review of your existing risk management processes will help:
- Identify ineffective malware or anti-phishing software
- Pinpoint gaps in identity and access management
- Reviewing your security policy – Regardless of industry, every organization needs a security policy to oversee the implementation of cybersecurity controls. Gaps in your organization’s security policy will likely minimize control effectiveness across assets. These gaps may include:
- Improper communication of security objectives
- Ineffective delegation of roles and responsibilities
Although the PCI DSS gap assessment requirements apply to organizations that handle CHD, they provide a general sense of how to conduct these assessments if your organization handles highly sensitive data.
SOC 2 Gap Assessments
For service organizations required to report on System and Organization Controls (SOC), gap assessments can help identify areas in need of remediation and prepare for compliance audits.
Organizations reporting on their SOC 2 compliance can conduct a gap analysis by:
- Evaluating risk management based on categories such as:
- Organizational risks
- Financial risks
- Legal and reputational risks
- Identifying gaps in business continuity processes such as:
- Absence of sensitive data backups
- Incomplete business continuity planning policies
- Assessing physical and logical security gaps such as:
- Absence of user access logging mechanisms
- Lack of identification and authentication procedures
Conducting cybersecurity gap assessments based on the PCI DSS, SOC 2, or other applicable industry compliance requirements will help your organization remain secure—even as threats evolve. With guidance from an MSSP, you will be well-prepared for these assessments, irrespective of the type of sensitive data you handle.
Optimize Your Cybersecurity Gap Assessments
Conducting cybersecurity gap assessments will help your organization remain safe from various security threats. However, partnering with an experienced MSSP will help you optimize these assessments—helping you safeguard sensitive data throughout the year.
To learn more and get started, contact RSI Security today!