Cybersecurity is a strategic enterprise risk that goes beyond information technology. Ill-defined, it can lead to a loss of integrity, customer experience, or investor confidence. Coupled with a need for regulatory compliance, organizations must use security maturity assessment tools to align with industry standards.
Due to the rise of the cloud and IoT, the threat landscape has increased exponentially. This has led to a significant increase in attack actors. The University of Maryland estimates that an attack occurs every 39 seconds, meaning that an average computer can be attacked 2,244 times a day, on average. This is a frightening statistic and further exacerbated by the average time it takes to identify a breach, which is over 200 days.
Many organizations are focusing on cybersecurity due to the high profile and highly disruptive security breaches that have threatened all industries across critical infrastructures. Using a security maturity assessment tool, organizations can determine where to effectively spend their cybersecurity budget.
In this post, we will unpack the steps an organization can take to determine their threat landscape and a strategic plan to secure their critical data.
What is the security maturity assessment tool?
A security maturity assessment tool is an enterprise-wide view of the people, processes, and technology to determine areas of vulnerability. When done effectively, it can help organizations identify and prioritize areas for remediation, turning information risk into a competitive advantage.
According to ISO 27001, an internationally recognized security standard, a cybersecurity risk assessment identifies an organization’s ability to “detect, analyze and evaluate weaknesses in their information security processes.” In other words, it is an in-depth review of an organization’s preparedness against cyber threats.
To get the best results from a security maturity assessment tool, organizations need a well-defined baseline and effective methodology. The baseline can be defined by one of the many recognized industry standards, including NCSC’s Cyber Assessment Framework, Cyber Essentials, NIST Cyber Security Framework, and ISO 27001. Once you have defined the baseline, a suitable assessment methodology must be applied to raise the baseline above your competitors.
To create an effective protection strategy, organizations require a range of assessment tools to determine their security posture and a roadmap to improvement. Many organizations prefer to consult qualified and experienced security consultants who have the expertise to assess their environment.
What it’s not: penetration testing
While penetration testing and security assessments have similarities, they are different. A security assessment focuses on finding and prioritizing vulnerabilities within an environment. Penetration testing is used to simulate a real-life attack based on the outcomes of the security assessment. They can and should be used together as they complement each other.
Why conduct a maturity assessment?
You can only improve what you can measure. When it comes to cyber resilience, organizations first need to understand their baseline and gaps based on industry standards. Every organization faces security threats that could prevent them from reaching their business outcomes.
Without a maturity assessment, organizations would not have a structured approach to cyber resilience. A full cybersecurity risk assessment will give organizations the vision and a framework for improving their security. A maturity assessment gives organizations a direct view of the vulnerabilities and highest priority areas that need attention.
Maturity is a measurement of the ability of an organization for continuous improvement in a specific discipline. Seeing that cybersecurity is one of the most pressing topics on an executive’s minds, being a leader in that discipline will likely increase brand reputation and the likelihood of future business.
Using the maturity assessment to define a cybersecurity strategy
Organizations need to prioritize cybersecurity as a strategic element to their competitive advantage. A security maturity assessment, coupled with a complete view of the people, processes, and technology, will provide the foundations for an effective cyber strategy. To effectively complete a maturity assessment that feeds into your cyber strategy, industry leaders CMMI recommends the following 4 steps:
Define the scope of the assessment
Before one can determine the best solution for an organization, you need to define the scope of the assessment. The scope will provide guidelines and boundaries for vulnerability testing. The goal of this section is to determine the organization’s risk profile and risk-based maturity targets. The Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) should own this step and can define the scope by:
- Evaluating the risk profile of different aspects of the business
- Assess the severity of both internal and external threats
- Set risk targets dependent on the organization’s risk appetite
- Set and review KPIs linked to the cyber strategy
- Establish risk control measures and ownership structures internally
Determine compliance levels
Assessments must be conducted with industry benchmarks. The results of the assessment can be aligned with compliance requirements, and further prioritized gaps can be found. The goal for this section is to determine the organization’s highest risk gaps and comparison of current solutions to industry benchmarks. The Operations department should own this step and can define the compliance levels by:
- Setting risk-mitigation measures and processes
- Measure the control resiliency and cost of data ownership
- Determine the relationship between controls and risks
- Measure results against KPIs and report performance
Develop risk-mitigation roadmap
Once the scope has been defined and it is operationally agreed, an organization can develop a roadmap to mitigate risks found in the assessment. The goal for this section is to define a risk-prioritized investment roadmap coupled with measured maturity aligned to industry benchmarks. Again, the Chief Information Security Officer should own this step and can define the roadmap by:
- Validating maturity targets and adapt where needed
- Review the cost of ownership data against risk targets
- Prioritize remediation and high impact GAPS
- Consolidate metrics and use reporting to adjust the approach
Define and approve organizational priorities
With a clear and well-planned roadmap, the Chief Information Security Officer can approach the board with a business case for further investment. The goal of this section is to define organizational priorities and get buy-in for cybersecurity investments. The board should own this step and can define the priorities by:
- Validating the organizational risk appetite of the business
- Approving priorities in line with the business vision
- Consuming relevant metrics and reports to reinforce decisions
Cybersecurity is not a luxury, but a necessity, especially due to the highly disruptive nature of security breaches. It is an expensive investment to make, and that is why many organizations are opting for experienced security consultants to run in-depth and enterprise-wide maturity assessments, giving business leaders added confidence in making an informed investment decision.