Operationalizing Cybersecurity: Evolution, Seamlessness And Holistic Thinking As Key Drivers

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By Michelle Drolet

Founder & CEO

Ms. Drolet is responsible for all aspects of business for Towerwall. She has more than 24 years of,

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When we say “operationalizing cybersecurity,” what we are essentially saying is the implementation of best practices that strengthen your cybersecurity infrastructure. This results in a strong security posture able to address advanced and continuously evolving cyberthreats leveled at any organization.
A well-defined cybersecurity strategy lies at the very root of seamless operationalizing. Key stakeholders like the C-suite and board members must actively define this strategy and ensure that it mitigates security risks at an acceptable level.

Being informed is the first step toward a solid security program.

Organizations are often compared to an echo chamber: ideas, beliefs and data points (often the wrong ones) are reinforced with continuous repetition. This shouldn’t be happening when you draft a cybersecurity strategy for your organization.
Start paying closer attention to the world of cybersecurity, and talk to your peers. Get an idea about the IT security issues they are facing and their firefighting methodologies. Also, become more aware of the evolutionary path of cyberattacks and how cybercriminals are using new and sophisticated ways to break into organizational networks.
Use all the information you have gathered to develop a security plan, which is essentially the foundation of your organization’s security paradigm. But the security plan remains only a plan if it isn’t ingrained into the minds of your workforce and dictates their actions.
It’s imperative that everyone associated with your organization develop a cybersecurity mindset so that they know the importance of cybersecurity and take great care to stick to the security program.

It’s about saying yes, rather than no.

Operationalization also means making sure business productivity isn’t adversely impacted to meet security compliance or audit requirements. Security should act as a business enabler, not a friction creator. As an organization, if you want to adopt new technologies, start new business activities, innovate business processes, develop new products or enhance existing business processes, your need for security shouldn’t hamper your business plans.
Optimally, operationalized security is about conducting risk assessment, working with the C-suite to identify acceptable risks and trying to find workarounds for the most risk-prone processes so that cybersecurity doesn’t interfere with your business goals.

How to maximize the potential of security equipment.

Security can’t be implemented without deploying appropriate tools, be it next-generation firewalls, endpoint protection suites, etc. But the key is to ask what you want to achieve with these solutions in the first place. Secondly, you need to figure out who is going to manage and monitor these tool sets.
There is a tendency to forget the “people element” attached to even the most cutting-edge security tech. You need to pick the right people to take responsibility for deployments. The best security product will throw a lot of information at you, and it is critical that this information translates into actions that go a long way to protect your organization.

Incident response is crucial.

While maximizing the potential of any and every security technology necessitates configuring the right set of policies and then mapping and enforcing them, it is also important to have a plan in place in case criminals find a vulnerability and exploit it. How do you respond to such an incident? The answer lies in a carefully crafted incident response plan that kicks into action when an unexpected incident — big or small — occurs.

Vulnerability management is a big piece of the puzzle.

If operationalizing your cybersecurity were a puzzle, then managing your vulnerabilities would be a critical piece of the puzzle. Having advised clients on their security posture for 25 years, I’ve seen firsthand that not giving due importance to patching is one of the top causes of data breaches. Yes, something as elementary as patching is given the short shrift by organizations. To plug these security gaps, you need to scan your network for vulnerabilities. The first step here is to get rid of all legacy systems, especially those that are a part of your cybersecurity infrastructure.
Identify the really critical vulnerabilities, and then prioritize them and plug them. The ideal way to go about vulnerability management is to prepare a document that lists all your vulnerabilities and discusses how you are going to fix them, when you are going to fix them and who is in charge of fixing them.
It’s like a plan within a plan. Operationalization has wheels within wheels. The incident response and vulnerability management plans are part of your larger security plan.

People are the weakest link — turn them into your strongest ally.

Cybersecurity operationalization is as good or bad as your employees want it to be. They could either be a liability or an asset. Many stories abound of employees succumbing to social engineering attacks, which has led to criminals getting access to sensitive company data. It’s therefore imperative that you train your employees in security best practices and make sure they err on the side of excess caution when clicking on certain links or files or sharing their personal or professional details.
If they come across a questionable activity or practice, they should immediately flag it to the people in charge of IT security. You might have operationalized the most complex security plan, but it will go bust if your employees are susceptible to basic cybersecurity threats.
Operationalizing cybersecurity is an ongoing process; it must evolve all the time. If the process stops because of your misplaced confidence, think of this as a vulnerability that cybercriminals are waiting to exploit.

This article was originally posted on Forbes.com. Click here to read >