Eight Steps to Cybersecurity
Whether used in the military or the private sector, cybersecurity is an essential tool to mitigate risk and avoid potentially devastating consequences such as information breaches, financial loss and reputation damage. Whenever navigating serious issues regarding cyberthreats, prevention is the best defense. In order to effectively employ cybersecurity and protect digital infrastructure, organizations should take the appropriate steps to achieve a well-rounded cybersecurity system.
- Risk Management: Create a Plan
First and foremost, you must create a plan for your cybersecurity procedure. To prepare for incidents, your organization should identify what matters most and create actionable “what-if” scenarios. Determine your high-risk areas and which data needs extensive protection. While paying attention to sensitive areas, this plan should be holistic, identifying gaps, blind spots and loopholes in a variety of locations.
- Awareness: Educate Your Team
Awareness and education should equip all members of your organization or business with the necessary skills to understand, combat and react to cybersecurity breaches. IT departments, risk management positions or incident response teams can all serve as effective contributors and designated experts on cybersecurity. Organization-wide training should be held to address user privileges and home and mobile working guidelines. Education also should provide tangible resources such as detection strategies to keep everyone aware and accountable.
- Equipment: Secure Configurations
The next step to ensuring your organization’s software and hardware is protected should include the deployment of necessary technology to patch vulnerabilities. Typically, this occurs in the form of tools such as password managers, multi-factor authentication and software updates. Software should be regularly upgraded by automatic updates and automatic backups to maintain the newest, most effective operating system for addressing vulnerabilities.
- Preparation: Secure Your Network
Similarly, network security should also be prioritized. In the new age of work from home, bring your own devices (BYOD) and remote career opportunities, this flexibility simultaneously creates susceptibility to flaws or weaknesses in the security of individual networks. Virtual private networks (VPNs), firewalls, encryption and protected access should be integrated into any systems or devices being used in connection to your organization’s network. It is important to ensure internal and external traffic is consistently inspected and that personal networks have the same security controls as the business network.
- Anticipation: Prevent Malware
In all aspects addressing cybersecurity, prevention is one of the best defenses. Your organization should anticipate cyberthreats with strategies primed to prevent and combat malware. One of the most malicious forms of malware to be aware of is ransomware. This occurs when a cybercriminal not only gains access to sensitive data but encrypts it and refuses to surrender the information to the rightful owner or user until a ransom is paid. Prevention of ransomware is crucial, as this type of malware can lead to significant financial losses. A comprehensive system hardening will integrate a variety of techniques, applications and infrastructure to minimize the possibility of entry for this type of attack. To properly inhibit malware attacks or threats, you should have blocks in place to prevent access to programs, pages or applications that are not inspected or pre-approved. Frequently updated patches and anti-malware software are fundamental methods to reduce the risk of malware damage and financial consequences.
- Supervision: Media Controls
In light of the rise of BYOD opportunities and remote positions in today’s workplace, media controls are a hallmark of supervision in regard to cybersecurity. To ensure this is done in a secure manner, it is critical that your business or organization sets guidelines and expectations for device usage within and outside of the workplace. More specifically, this should detail device charging and plug-in guidelines. Leadership, management and personnel must pay particular attention to removable media such as USBs, CDs, DVDs, Bluetooth devices, memory sticks, phone, and tablets that are able to be connected or inserted into a computer or system. The use of removable media presents the opportunity for the transfer of sensitive information, while providing an entryway for external data or malware to infiltrate systems.
- Action: Incident Response and Management
One of the most important steps impacting the success of cybersecurity plans is how your organization responds to incidents. In addition to having a strong risk management plan already in place pre-attack, it is also necessary to have a precise response plan available in the event of an incident. Although many incidents may require additional action on a case-by-case basis, standard protocols should be in place regardless of the threat. For example, it is recommended that companies do not pay ransoms to cybercriminals in the event of ransomware attacks, so organizations should have a plan of action for responses to ransom demands as well as alternative solutions. In order to properly resolve and manage cyberattacks, these plans must be reviewed and practiced regularly.
Many organizations benefit from employing incident response teams who undergo frequent training to develop confidence and competence concerning cyberattacks. Within these teams, individual roles and leadership should be assigned so employees or personnel are prepared to take initiative during these events and have a pre-existing idea of their expectations. Technology specialists and communications professionals also can be incorporated into the incident response team, helping to navigate and manage the issue and relay pertinent information.
- Evaluation: Monitor and Test Regularly
The last step to comprehensive cybersecurity is evaluation. Before any testing takes place, it is essential that leadership and personnel are aware of how your systems should be working, and where and how this information is being used. This preparation helps your team to more easily spot abnormalities or suspicious activity. Once this is established, your organization should regularly schedule security tests, examining the specifics of systems, procedures, networks and equipment. To take this a step further, some organizations may even choose to test employees or personnel, ensuring they are not also vulnerable or susceptible to giving up valuable information.
Cybersecurity is a multi-factorial, urgent issue that requires much attention and precaution. If appropriate steps are not taken, your organization may find itself vulnerable to various threats or attacks. Risk management, appropriate awareness and training across the organization, equipment and preparation are vital to anticipating cyberthreats and employing greater supervision. As a result, your organization can take action to the best of its ability and constantly evaluate the effectiveness of strategies for the future. Consideration of all steps comprehensively will promote cybersecurity success in an all-inclusive manner.
Ready to put these cybersecurity steps into action? The Institute for Defense and Business (IDB) provides the course IU-IDB, Cyber Risk Management in a National Security Context for early career professionals, private industry and career levels 0-2 to 0-4, W-1 to W-3, E7 to E-9 and GS11 to GS-13. Through this course, participants will gain a deeper understanding of technology and its role in national security, while becoming educated on the “key functional areas” of cyberthreats and security. The course covers topics on artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), Internet of Things (IoT), 5G, securing smart cities, supply chain security and blockchain.
About the Institute for Defense and Business
The Institute for Defense and Business (IDB) delivers educational programs and research to teach, challenge and inspire leaders who work with and within the defense enterprise to achieve next-level results for their organization. IDB features curriculum in Logistics, Supply Chain and Life Cycle Management, Complex Industrial Leadership, Strategic Studies, Global Business and Defense Studies, Continuous Process Improvement, and Stabilization and Economic Reconstruction. Visit www.IDB.org or contact us on our website for more information