How To Evaluate and Strengthen Your Security Posture

February 2, 2023
In this article:

How ready is your organization to face today’s cybersecurity threats? That’s the question many businesses face. How bad is it? A recent study on penetration testing performed by Positive Technologies notes that hackers can breach external security protections and access network resources 93% of the time.

The strength of your organization’s cybersecurity posture should be a constant priority for everyone. It only takes one overlooked weakness to bring down the hard work put in by your workers. 

That’s why we’ve provided this guide to help you understand security posture and its importance to your company. You’ll learn how to evaluate how to review your current security infrastructure, set protection benchmarks, and find ways to make it more secure against internal and external threats.

What is a security posture?

Your organization’s security posture represents its readiness to face modern threats from different vectors. This includes scanning emails to ensure they don’t contain bad links designed to tempt your workers to give up their credentials. A security posture covers all security controls and frameworks used to protect your company from cyberattacks aimed at its vulnerabilities, including the following:

  • Information and data security
  • Network security
  • Awareness training
  • Vendor risk management
  • Penetration testing
  • Data breach prevention
  • Vulnerability management

A security posture should account for potential attacks that hackers might launch against modern endpoints like the following:

  • Software-as-a-service (SaaS) tools
  • Application programming interfaces (APIs)
  • Cloud services

Why is a security posture important?

A strong security posture is your organization’s best defense against getting exploited by attackers constantly on the lookout for weaknesses in your company’s infrastructure. Data breaches and cyber-attacks went up by nearly 21% from 2020 to 2021, a major reason many businesses are focused on reinforcing their existing cybersecurity framework and rethinking their security strategy.

Here’s what your organization gains by prioritizing efforts to shore up your security programs with more robust protections.

Defending cyberattacks

With the right tools in place to assess your security posture, you can give your company a complete picture of your overall readiness in case of an attack. That way, you can use the information to determine what additional protections you might need and where to focus on new updates. Getting ahead of bad actors by shoring up your vulnerabilities reduces the likelihood of you falling victim to a successful cyberattack.

Preventing data breaches

Data breaches continue to be a growing concern in an age where information is king. Your security posture gives your security teams insight into where you hold critical data, what it’s used for, and who has access to it. Having that understanding helps you set up defenses capable of detecting unusual activity that helps flag and stop attempts to steal data.

Mitigating vulnerabilities and threats

While new technology opens the door to innovation, it can also increase the attack surface for cyber threats to exploit. Any reinforcements to your security posture should include updates to your security policies, how you conduct risk assessments, and a review of real-time metrics around what’s happening within your systems and networks.

How to evaluate your security posture

Read on for tips on the best ways to perform a security posture assessment.

1) Complete a risk assessment

Performing cybersecurity risk assessments gives your security team more insight into the data held by your organization, the value it contains, and what infrastructure you have in place for protection. Knowing your company’s risks helps you figure out the most likely attack vectors and how to reduce your attack surface.

Below are some examples of questions you want to answer during a risk assessment:

  • What information are we collecting, and where is it sourced from?
  • Where are we storing data?
  • How are we documenting and protecting data?
  • How long are we keeping data?
  • What archival processes do we have in place?
  • Who has internal and external access to the information?

2) Document all IT assets

An accurate inventory count is essential to maintaining an organization’s cybersecurity posture. Setting up protections for equipment, systems, or other technology you can’t track is difficult. That means accounting for the Amazon Web Services (AWS) instances used by developers or new laptops ordered for remote workers.

3) Review and evaluate types of security risks

Go over places in your organization where you are most open to risk. For example, if you do a lot of work in the cloud, your company should conduct a cloud security posture management assessment for cloud resources. Cloud technology is under constant threat from malware and other threats. According to IBM’s 2022 Cost of a Data Breach Report, 45% of all data breaches happened in the cloud.

You want security controls deployed capable of the protection necessary to prevent attacks on vulnerable endpoints. One of the best ways to do that is by automating the processes needed to keep up with different attack vectors. With hundreds of new vulnerabilities coming to light every month, automation helps you stay ahead of the newer attack methods being developed by bad actors.

4) Evaluate the security of third-party vendors

Most companies rely on third-party vendors to support everything from software to staffing. The cost of extending your business model to gain a competitive advantage is the increased vulnerability to security attacks. Before you open your company’s systems up to a third party, assess what protections they have implemented to secure your information and theirs.

5) Determine the cost of a successful attack

Your risk assessment should include what your organization could lose if you become the victim of a successful cybersecurity attack. It could happen because of a credential breach, a successful social engineering attempt, or by managing to hack into your cloud infrastructure.

Your cost assessment should include revenue lost because of the hit to your business’s reputation. It’s also important to go over scenarios like the cost of defending yourself against potential legal action from customers or business partners impacted by an attack.

Best practices for strengthening your security posture

The one thing most hackers look for is weakness. If you put time, money, and energy into improving your security posture, you end up decreasing your appeal as a target. Investing in improving your security defenses can also keep you from getting penalized by data privacy laws cropping up in the U.S. and worldwide.

For example, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) law allows them to levy severe penalties against any company that fails to protect online information collected from its citizens. If you’re looking to expand your business into that region, it’s your responsibility to make sure that you comply with all the obligations listed under the GDPR.

Below are some best practices you can follow to help ensure that your company is doing everything possible to maintain a strong security posture.

Prioritize security risks and take action

Once you’ve conducted a risk assessment and understand your vulnerabilities, assign them a priority based on the threat they present to your company. This allows your organization to allocate resources for mitigating the threats that present the most significant business impact.

Instead of trying to do this manually, think about investing in technology capable of automating your risk assessments. This makes it easier to analyze and design roadmaps for elevating security awareness throughout the organization.

Define your risk ownership hierarchy

After identifying and setting a risk priority order, determine who will assume responsibility for each. Defining a risk owner can vary from one company to the next. It could be one person or a team tasked with the day-to-day management of that risk.

Use technology to assign and track who maintains accountability for each risk. Otherwise, you risk the item falling through the cracks and getting ignored until something forces a reaction. Assigning a risk owner helps with developing incident response plans.

Educate and train the team regularly

Everyone working at a company should understand their role in assessing risks. Providing cybersecurity education to your workforce ensures that everyone understands cybersecurity and the importance of remaining diligent against threats. Organizations are better positioned to enforce security controls and keep workers on high alert for attacks that could come from any vector.

Track the right security metrics

Security metrics give companies the information needed to determine how effectively they maintain a strong security posture. You can use those same data points to communicate the value of continuing to build robust security programs or show where you could potentially end up vulnerable to an attack.

Develop a cybersecurity incident response plan

An incident response plan outlines the steps your organization should take if you fall victim to a data breach or other cyber attack. It spells out who should take on specific responsibilities, which avoids confusion and improves communication during stressful periods. You should conduct periodic tests of your incident response plan to refine it and make updates as needed.

Monitor for potential risks and threats regularly

Set up automated monitoring of your applications to relieve the burden typically placed on your system administrators. The mitigation of potential human error lowers the potential of vulnerability gaps developing that a hacker could exploit. Automating the security of your applications, systems, and devices lets your company pick up on and remediate threats without having to involve a human.

Automate third-party security reviews

Technology like the HyperComply platform lets you automate your third-party vendor questionnaires. This makes it easier to get the information you need from new partnerships without overwhelming your personnel. You can establish security profiles to use as a repository for generating questionnaires and other documents, speeding up the time it takes to review the security posture of third parties.

Share your security posture with HyperComply

Keeping your security posture strong is essential in today’s online business environment. It’s your best defense against cyberattacks that might come in the form of a data breach or an attempt to install malware on a remote device. But having a strong security posture is only the first step. Companies also need to be able to easily share their security posture with customers and partners.

With HyperComply Trust Pages, it's easy for you to publish a public security posture, share sensitive InfoSec documents in a secure way, and build trust with your customers. Learn more about Trust Pages and how you can turn your security posture into a competitive advantage.