Secure Triad

How to develop a cybersecurity strategy: Step-by-step guide

How to develop a cybersecurity strategy: Step-by-step guide

More and more organisations are taking up their businesses online as it is much more scalable, efficient and cost-effective. As the businesses go online, the internal operational processes get linked to cyberinfrastructure, which is easy to overlook and can result in data breaches. Developing a sound cyber strategy plan is the key for an organisation to protect its assets, reputation, intellectual property, staff and customers.

What is a cybersecurity strategy?

A cybersecurity strategy is a set of steps or actions which are designed to improve the security infrastructure and resilience of an organisation. The strategy is to adopt a high-level top-down approach to cybersecurity that establishes an array of objectives and priorities and the steps taken to achieve them in a specified timeframe. Adopting a cybersecurity strategy enables an organisation to espouse a proactive approach to security instead of a reactive approach which helps in thwarting the attacks and preventing data breaches and financial losses. The following are the steps taken to develop a robust security strategy.

  • Create a sound security strategy
  • Analyse the threat landscape
  • Build a security plan
  • Evaluate the organisation’s execution ability

Step 1: Create a sound security strategy

Determine what do you have to protect: Carry out a review of the security system and determine the critical systems of your organisation. It is not possible to protect all the systems from a cyber threat. Hence the enterprise should focus only on the critical systems whose non-functioning or unavailability may disrupt the entire business process. The critical systems may include servers, endpoints, IT assets and network systems that are critical to your business.

Understand the legal implications: There are certain security regulations with which the organisations need to comply to. Incompliance can lead to legal complications and may damage the business and reputation of an organisation. Ensuring that the organisations comply with the required frameworks will enable an organisation to prioritise legal requirements and hence prevent any legal complications

Understand the risk-taking ability: An organisation should be able to recognise its risk-taking ability or risk-taking appetite before it develops a cybersecurity plan. Risk-taking ability or risk appetite refers to the amount of risk an organisation is willing to take to meet its strategic objectives. The risk appetite depends on the organisation, objective, employees, industry it is working and the financial strength of the organisation. The strategic cybersecurity plan is not a one size fits all solution and differs from organisation to organisation. A plan that works for a big organisation doesn’t necessarily work for a small enterprise. Thus, a proper understanding of the risk appetite is necessary to ensure that the organisation is not over protecting or under protecting its business.

Step 2: Analyse the threat landscape

Once you have determined what assets or elements you need to protect, you need to analyse the threat landscape surrounding your company. To perform an adequate analysis, you need to first understand the environment the company works under and start by asking these questions: Who are your customers? What products or services are you selling? Who would benefit from disrupting your service? What are the common security vulnerabilities in the industry in which you operate in? After scanning the working environment, you need to assess the threats faced by competitors as they may help you build a robust cybersecurity design. Ask the following questions to get a thorough understanding: What threats do your competitors face? Has there been a security breach at the competitors? What steps have your competitors undertaken to thwart or neutralise these threats? Finally, you need to look from the cyber attackers’ perspectives to gauge their strengths and weaknesses and develop a solid plan. The following questions will help you: What resources do the hackers have? What is their motivation to launch an attack? What operations do the hackers target? What do the attackers gain from your attacking your business?

Step 3: Build a Cybersecurity plan

Pick a framework for the current security state: Businesses can choose their framework between the Center for Internet Security (CIS), International Organizations for Standardization (ISO), or The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Picking up a framework allows the company to track its progress, make improvements to the system and prioritise the most important steps.

The organisation also has to define its current security environment and revaluate what assets need to be protected from a risk and management point of view. It also needs to evaluate the current process in place of security systems. Is the process compliant with the regulatory framework? Are the right assets protected, and are the security measures in place currently effective enough? are the questions that need to be asked while developing a plan.

The owners or cybersecurity experts also need to decide on a target timeline to better assess the risks and timeline management. It is important to have a target timeline in mind based on current security measures to get to a level where the organisations accept the risks involved as acceptable. The timeline is subject to change based on developments and updates.

Evaluate your company’s security maturity level: The maturity level of a company refers to adhering to following best security practices and processes. Measuring or evaluating your company’s maturity level helps you to identify gaps and areas of improvement. You can either have your own employees to carry out an evaluation or hire a third party to do so. The process should be repeatable for future use

Evaluate the company’s technology: Evaluate your company’s current technology as well to determine which set of tools are being used. Make an assessment of tools to check whether the tools used are fully utilised or whether they are prone to attacks due to bad configuration. Reassess and find out whether these tools can be used more efficiently or effectively.

Identify foundational items and quick wins: While developing a strategy, identify the foundational items and prioritise them for smooth execution and functioning of the system. Quick wins are systems or processes that are easy to fix and require very few resources.


Step 4: Identify your Organisations execution ability

This step involves checking your organisation’s resources and determining whether your organisation has the ability to execute the cybersecurity plan which you have framed to meet your security objectives. For instance, you will have to do a skill check of your current IT and security department staff and determine whether they will be able to execute the cybersecurity strategy. If there is a skillset mismatch, you may need to hire skilled members or hire a third party to fill in the gaps. The managers should keep in mind the potential threats, hiccups and disruptions and work their way around them before making the cybersecurity plan fully functional.

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