Types of Security Controls With Examples [How to Implement]

Anwita

Anwita

Feb 23, 2024

In Dec 2022, OU Health, a hospital in Oklahoma, notified about 3000 patients about a breach of their health data after an employee’s laptop was stolen. Sensitive data like treatments, social security numbers, and insurance details were compromised. The incident highlights the importance of implementing all types of security controls.

But what are security controls? Let us understand the types and categories of security controls with examples and how to implement these in steps.

What are security controls?

Security controls are preventive, detective, defensive, and corrective measures or guardrails that protect the information systems, networks, and data assets within an organization from security risks or threats.

Cybersecurity controls aim to maintain the integrity, availability, and confidentiality of sensitive data using a combination of people, policies, processes, tools, and strategies.

Why are security controls important?

The cloud is like a bank. One keeps their money in a bank for security and accessibility. Robbers often target banks, because that’s the repository. Similarly, malicious actors target the cloud hubs because that’s where your valuable business assets are.

Attacks against the cloud impact multiple businesses objectives. Here are some reasons why a strong posture is essential.

Resilience against breaches

Most businesses, especially small ones, don’t prioritize security unless they face an incident.  

A study conducted by IBM security found that 83% of organizations faced more than one breach and 60% passed the cost to recover to their customer.

The cost, time, and effort to identify and recover from an attack significantly disrupts business continuity. Security controls improve your overall security posture and increase its resilience against risks.

Data regulations

Regulations around privacy laws and individual rights are increasingly becoming more stringent. When under their purview, companies must abide by them to avoid legal complications and penalties.

For example, suppose you run a healthcare business in the U.S. that involves collecting, transmitting, and accessing protected health information (PHI). In that case, you must conform to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Merchants who process cardholder data like Debit or Credit card transactions must abide by the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) compliance framework

Sprinto helps you implement, manage, and ensure compliance with any security framework by continuously monitoring your control environment against the frameworks requirements. Know more

Reputation and brand value

No matter how good your product is, it is no good if you don’t implement the necessary security controls required to defend it from the barrage of security breach incidents.

Customers today are aware of their privacy rights and are unlikely to consider your services without evidence that you won’t take their data for a toss.

Tech giant Facebook, notoriously known for collecting personal data without the individual’s consent, found themselves in thick soup after the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) forced them to comply.

A record number of netizens are shifting from Google to DuckDuckGo and similar search engines due to Google’s questionable and unethical data collection practices.

Additionally, SaaS businesses are increasingly finding it difficult to unlock sales deals without demonstrating their security practices by producing favorable audit reports for security frameworks like SOC 2 or ISO 27001.

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Types of security controls and their functions

Security controls are broadly classified into three categories: administrative, technical, and physical. These security measures work together to help you build effective cyber security programs. Let’s understand how the security control types differ and their purpose.

Physical controls

Physical controls refers to measures, policies, and procedures that protect your organization’s physical or non-digital assets, installed in a specific physical location(s). physical threats to security include unauthorized activities or access to systems like theft attempts or natural disasters.

Security control examples (physical):

  • Locks and keys
  • Access cards or badges
  • Biometric systems (access control cards, iris scan, fingerprint verification)
  • Backup generators
  • Alarm systems
  • Humidity control systems
  • CCTVs
  • Motion sensors or surveillance cameras
  • Gates or fences

Technical controls

Also known as logical controls, technical controls are the software mechanisms that protect information assets and networks within your IT infrastructure from unauthorized users. 

These components detect, monitor, prevent, minimize, and respond to various internal and external threats or vulnerabilities.

Here are a few commonly used technical controls:

  • Firewalls
  • Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) systems
  • Data encryption
  • Access Control Lists (ACLs)
  • Network segmentation
  • Patch management systems

Administrative controls

Also known as organizational or management controls, administrative security controls are a set of security policies, strategies, processes, practices, or guidelines entailing business objectives to maintain their security posture based on risk profile.

Most commonly used Administrative controls are:

  • Employee training for security awareness
  • Access controls
  • Incident response plan
  • Security audit and compliance
  • Risk assessment
  • Password management policies
  • Data classification
  • Screening and verification
  • Documentation

Effortless, Efficient Risk Evaluation

Security control functions

Now that you have a fair understanding of the control types, let’s move on to what role each plays in the universe of securing business environments. These functions or roles can be preventive, detective, or corrective and sometimes there is an overlap in functionality.

Preventive controls

True to its name, preventive controls identify, block, prevent, or minimize vulnerabilities, unauthorized access or threats to sensitive information. In security, prevention is better than cure, making these controls placed in the first line of defense.

Here are a few examples of preventative controls:

  • Access Control
  • Firewalls
  • Data encryption
  • Vulnerability assessment and penetration testing (VAPT) tools
  • Network segmentation
  • Patch management

Detective controls

Much like a whistleblower, detective controls trigger alerts to notify system administrators or control owners about a breach attempt or intrusion. Equipped with the relevant information, your IT team can proactively work to mitigate and block the intruder before it inflicts damage.

Security service providers and organizations alike use detective controls. Few of them are listed below.

  • Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) Systems
  • System and log monitoring
  • CCTVs
  • Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) systems
  • Risk assessments

Corrective controls

No matter how resilient your security system is, it does not guarantee 100% protection against breaches and vulnerabilities. Corrective controls address “just in case” situations to minimize damage and ensure business continuity.

Here are a few examples

  • Incident response systems
  • Data recovery
  • System patching
  • Isolation and quarantine
  • Threat investigation systems

How to implement the types of security controls?

An effective security program has multiple advantages. From inception to investigation, here is what a solid anti-threat system looks like:

Plan and prepare

Conduct a risk assessment to discover gaps in your infrastructure to know the security requirements. Analyze what controls you need to patch the gaps or reduce potential threats. Assign control owners and accountability within each function.

Prevent

Strict prevention controls help to minimize the possibility of an intrusion and reduce cyber risks. Implement monitoring tools today, to keep those pesky breaches away.

Identify

Time for the detective controls to shine is now. Use your detective systems to identify breach attempts or vulnerabilities to prevent malicious attacks.

Correct

Intrusive attacks made their way? Happens to the best of us. That is why corrective controls exist. Make corrections, document it, test critical systems affected by the breach, isolate the infected systems, and make the necessary patches to prevent a similar attack.

Investigate

Once the bad guys are down, put on your detective hat. How did the breach occur in the first place? Were the necessary controls in place? If yes, how did they break in? What is the cost of the damage? And lastly, what steps can you take to avoid recurrence?

Meet the all-in-one control connoisseur

Is managing and tracking too many controls making you lose control of everything? We know that managing multiple tools, systems, people, and processes is daunting.

Sprinto juggles these from a single platform by automating security compliance. It prevents unauthorized access using a role-based access control system, detects anomalous or non-compliant behavior across your infrastructure to alert control users, and leverages AI to recommend corrective actions. 

FAQs

What are some examples of physical security controls?

Locks and keys, Access cards or badges, Biometric access control systems, Alarm systems, CCTVs, Motion sensors, video surveillance systems, Gates or fences, or any system that prevents unauthorized physical access are examples of physical security control.

What are deterrent controls in security?

Deterrent controls are administrative mechanisms like Employee training, Access controls, Incident response plans, Audit and compliance, Risk assessment, Data classification, Screening and verification, and Documentation.

What are some examples of technical security controls?

Technological controls or technical measures include tools that protect software against cyber threats and security breaches like antivirus software, intrusion detection systems, firewalls, Data encryption, network traffic filters, Access Control Lists, and Network segmentation. 

What are operational security controls?

Operational controls or management security controls are methods, tools, and practices that people implement, manage, and operate.

What are the most common environmental controls?

Environmental controls include Smoke detection systems, Fire suppression mechanisms, Non-stop Power Supply systems, Wet or Dry Pipes, and Motion detectors, and Sound Detectors.

What are alternative controls?

Alternative controls are measures used to meet a control objective when the primary control is not used. These should be implemented in a way that sufficiently addresses business risks. 

Anwita

Anwita

Anwita is a cybersecurity enthusiast and veteran blogger all rolled into one. Her love for everything cybersecurity started her journey into the world compliance. With multiple certifications on cybersecurity under her belt, she aims to simplify complex security related topics for all audiences. She loves to read nonfiction, listen to progressive rock, and watches sitcoms on the weekends.

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