Security Posture: What Is It and Steps To Improve
Nov 23, 2023
Security posture is the buzzword nowadays since many businesses started shifting their business operations to the cloud. However, the shift requires strong cybersecurity systems to defend and protect against cyber threats.
To highlight this, a recent survey found that in the past year, 80% of companies faced a cloud security issue, and 27% of organizations had a public cloud security incident, which is a 10% increase from the previous year.
These statistics indicate that cyber threats and hackers are evolving in numbers and sophistication.
It’s now a priority more than ever for you to prioritize your security posture. In this article, let’s dive deeper into what security strengths are and how to assess them.
What is security posture?
Security posture is the understanding of the security status of the asset inventory and the level of preparedness to prevent, detect, mitigate or remediate security events. It includes a number of policies, procedures, and measures to protect the information infrastructure from threats and risks.
Also, a strong security posture is a testament to your company’s overall cybersecurity strengths and its resilience against active cyber threats. It is also paramount because modern threat attacks are becoming quite challenging to figure out.
Your security posture is an evaluation of the following:
- Level of visibility into attack surface and asset inventory
- Compliance processes and controls to protect the enterprise against cyber-attacks
- Real-time monitoring to detect and counter attacks
- Ability to contain and recover from security events
- Automation level in the security program
Why is security posture important for organizations?
A strong security posture protects organizations from cybersecurity threats by identifying and preventing malware attacks, data breaches, and intellectual property theft.
And the security posture of your company is important because it works in the opposite way to cybersecurity risk. When your security posture gets better, the possibility of a successful breach comes down.
Having a strong security posture enables your company to have the following benefits:
1. Data breach
A data breach takes place when an unauthorized person accesses confidential and/or personal information.
Data breaches might be intentional, where a hacker targets vulnerabilities, or unintentional as well in case wrong access permissions are given to an employee, a piece of hardware containing confidential information is lost, etc.
Cyber-attacks are carried out with deliberate ill intent to target an organization’s computer network with the goal of disabling, disrupting, and/or controlling stored information.
These attacks can be carried out by people within the organization (contract workers, disgruntled employees, etc.) or external actors (criminal groups, hackers, etc.)
3. Vulnerabilities and threats
A security vulnerability refers to weaknesses within an organization’s network and can vary greatly—from weak passwords to operating systems not functioning properly.
On the other hand, threats are hypothetical instances identified due to security vulnerabilities that could negatively affect an organization. For protecting your organization against data breaches and cyber-attacks, understanding and analyzing potential threats and their likelihood is vital.
Key elements of security posture
If you are deciding to strengthen your security posture, there are several key elements you need to consider.
These elements cover things like network security, information security, data security, and security awareness training for employees to guard against social engineering attacks.
Here are the 5 key elements of security posture:
1. Security policies and procedures
Security policies and procedures define your overall strategy in security stance. The documents help you build a structure. It basically answers the “what” and “why” of your responsibilities in cybersecurity.
These may cover areas like password management, data handling, and incident response.
2. Categorizing IT assets
Of course, organizing everything makes more sense. And it applies not just to your desk or icons in your computer but also to your IT assets.
Categorizing helps you to understand your attack surface. You can group assets based on various characteristics like their type, how they’re used, who’s responsible for their security, where they are, software versions, and the vulnerabilities they might have.
This categorization helps you quickly organize assets by specific criteria, making it easier to answer tough questions about your security.
3. Network and system security
The security status of an enterprise’s networks, information, and systems is determined by its information security resources, including people, hardware, software, and policies. These resources work together to defend the enterprise and adapt as the situation evolves.
Hence, this is an important component of security posture as it involves using antivirus software, intrusion detection systems and firewalls.
4. Access controls
Strong access controls prevent unauthorized access to sensitive systems and data. This includes user authentication, permissions, and physical security measures like access badges or security personnel.
5. Employee training
Security training matters because if your employees don’t know what they are dealing with, a cybercriminal can easily manipulate their way into your security barrier.
Regular training for employees in cybersecurity best practices keeps them informed about the latest threats and helps them protect themselves and their company.
How to assess security posture?
Security posture assessment involves risk assessments that enable your organization’s security professionals to identify assets and vulnerabilities within infrastructure and solutions to rectify them.
But before you begin the assessment, here are a few questions you should have answers to:
- What kind of data are you gathering?
- How and where is the data you take been stored?
- What’s the scope of your assessment?
- How do you plan to protect the data, and how will you document it?
- How long do we retain this data?
- Who has access to this data, both inside and outside the organization?
- Is the storage location of the data appropriately secured?
- What is the main purpose of the assessment?
- Are there any important priorities or constraints that could affect the assessment?
- Who do we need for the necessary information?
- What risk methodology is used for risk analysis?
Let’s explore 4 key steps in security posture assessment to assess security posture:
1. Get a lowdown on your current asset Inventory
Surprisingly, 71.1 million people fall victim to cyber crimes yearly. And most of these happen because companies do not monitor their IT asset inventory. This is even more worrying, with recent statistics pointing out that at least 56% of professionals struggle to identify which assets are crucial for their business.
These issues can make it difficult to manage your security posture and raise the risk of cyber threats.
Hence, you need to create an asset inventory. You can start by start by cataloging all the data assets linked to your company’s security.
This should cover digital and physical assets, including those accessed by third parties. It’s vital to improving your security posture and reducing cyber risks.
2. Check your current attack surface
Mapping your attack surface is the second step in security posture assessment. Your attack surface is defined as all the points or vulnerabilities on your network that an adversary can exploit to gain entry to your information systems. All of these points must be monitored at all times.
3. Get to know the level of your cyber risk
To understand cyber risk, it’s crucial to realize that it has an inverse relationship with your security posture.
As your security gets stronger, your cyber risk decreases. In analytical terms, risk is the likelihood of a loss event (probability) multiplied by the impact of that event (magnitude of loss). Cyber risk represents the probability of exposure or potential loss due to a cyberattack or data breach.
A precise calculation of cyber risk considers five factors as below:
Risk = Likelihood x Business Impact
This formula ensures that you think about all the possible scenarios you can take up for the safety of your employee and customer data. This is because hackers can easily bypass your security measures to gain access to exploit even a small level of vulnerability.
Hence, once you have access to the details, you can better scrutinize and mitigate the risks that threaten to harm your system.
4. Implement continuous monitoring
Now, we know you have a system in place to mitigate and schnitzel the risks. But what if we say you can automate the assessment of your security posture? This is where compliance automation software like Sprinto comes in.
Sprinto’s continuous compliance monitoring feature helps you see the stays of your security controls in real-time. Here, it automates the response and enables you to instantly address low-level issues for remediation. And human intervention can come in for severe problems.
With round-the-clock monitoring, the controls you enable will safeguard your security posture by letting you close the gaps one-by-one.
Continous-compliance is the next big thing! Get there first with Sprinto
How do you improve your organization’s security posture?
We know that investing in point-in-time security assessments can be quite expensive. This is why you need to take steps to improve your organization’s security posture to face the cyber threats.
Here are the 10 steps to improve security posture in any organization:
1. Inventory all of your IT assets
Identifying and tracking down your digital assets is the first step toward protecting them. Begin with a full accounting of all your computing assets, including those currently in use, as well as older systems with components that may still be in operation. An inventory audit must include digital assets used without the knowledge or approval of digital leaders, all assets that connect to the network, and the so-called shadow IT.
2. Conduct a security assessment
After you’ve inventoried your digital assets, assess the level of risk for each component mapped against known and potential vulnerabilities. This kind of assessment should identify as well as assess risk from your vendors, partners, contractors, suppliers, and service providers that have access to your internal data or systems.
Also, check out: Guide to Security Assessment: (Types & Steps)
3. Prioritize risks to business resiliency
Assets that are most critical to business operations must be identified and prioritized, with more resources devoted to them. Perform a benefit/risk assessment on how much of your security budget you should devote to it once you identify the assets that are most crucial to business resiliency.
4. Establish a consistent patching schedule
Although software vendors are continually identifying and patching security flaws, organizations often don’t implement them for weeks or months after they’re released. Sticking to a relatively frequent and consistent update schedule will minimize the duration of time a vulnerability is exposed to attack.
5. Automate threat detection, remediation, and mitigation
Every enterprise now requires a robust suite of cybersecurity tools. Increasingly, security teams are utilizing AI-powered tools to surveil networks 24/7 as well as isolate potentially serious attacks for further investigation.
A more proactive cyber security posture is achieved by automating threat detection and mitigation and offers some relief for overworked, understaffed security teams. Put your compliance on autopilot while improving your organization’s cybersecurity posture with Sprinto.
6. Monitor critical security vulnerabilities
Cybercriminals are constantly evolving their means and methods of attack. To protect against rapidly changing threats, your security team needs to continuously monitor and gauge if your IT systems are vulnerable to new kinds of attacks.
Threat intelligence feeds that distribute information on cybergangs and active exploits can help organizations proactively protect their networks against the latest threats.
Also, when it comes to handling vulnerabilities in your security posture, including coordination, tracking, and documentation, can be challenging. This is where you need the help of a compliance automation platform.
Sprinto, a compliance automation platform built to strengthen your security posture allows you to manage vulnerabilities and see them through to resolution.
Sprinto takes on the heavy lifting, offering pre-built policy templates, extensive platform integrations, and more. It goes beyond just addressing vulnerabilities, extending its support to various compliance aspects, making your job easier.
7. Adopt a zero-trust framework
As per a May 2021 presidential executive order; federal agencies have to implement a zero-trust framework, which requires all users of federal computer networks to be continuously authenticated when utilizing network resources and only to have access to the data, apps, and systems they need to do their jobs. This makes it difficult for attackers who have breached the perimeter to move laterally within the network.
8. Transition to a DevSecOps approach
Integrate security into the process of software development and deployment by adopting a DevSecOps approach. Security personnel can swiftly identify and mitigate potential vulnerabilities before code is shipped, avoiding expenses and resources on rework, as well as preventing uncertain code from inadvertently being deployed in production.
9. Implement cyber-security training for all employees
Employees are involved in human error in More than 8 out of 10 security breaches—from a manager losing a laptop or phone containing sensitive corporate data, employees revealing their log-in credentials by phishing emails, or an admin misconfiguring server settings to allow public access to proprietary intellectual property.
An organization can minimize exposure to social engineering attacks and malware infestations by educating all employees in cyber-security fundamentals, reducing its overall vulnerability. Educating employees on recognizing and reporting attacks can reduce response times, which is a key element in successful mitigation.
Sprinto has made things simple by including a security training module in its platform. When you choose Sprinto as your compliance solution, you will automatically gain access to up-to-date security training programs for your team. You will also benefit from an automated system streamlining the compliance process, making it a breeze to achieve.
10. Develop and practice an incident management plan
Proactive security posture management in case the organization falls victim to an attack or suffers a data breach requires having an incident management plan in place to identify, assess, and resolve such critical incidents.
For each department head, the plan needs to outline the appropriate responses and detail their procedures and roles.
Using an automated tool like Sprinto can enhance your approach to incident management.
Sprinto comes with a built-in incident management system and allows you to integrate your existing systems and add more along the way.
It assists in tracking data loss and ensures incidents are promptly resolved, keeping security a top priority. Sprinto offers a central view of where the incident originated, its severity, checks performed, and actions are taken, providing an overview throughout the entire incident lifecycle.
Types of security posture within an organization
A strong security posture implies evaluating and strengthening all aspects of digital operations within an organization and can be categorized as the following:
1. Network security posture
Measures such as next-generation firewalls or automated compliance software that have more layers of security built into them ensure the protection of data, devices, applications, and systems connected to the network.
2. Data security posture
This describes how organizations protect sensitive data against being lost, corrupted, or stolen.
3. Cloud security posture
This describes how organizations authenticate users and manage access to sensitive systems to assess and mitigate risks from SaaS applications as well as cloud hosting providers.
4. Third-party security posture
Between an enterprise, its suppliers, and other external organizations, it maintains the integrity of system connections and data flows.
Strengthen your security posture with Sprinto
The first step towards a cyber-security strategy is to identify vulnerabilities and place controls in real-time, starting with a security audit.
Sprinto is an automated security compliance software that enables you to get an independent, comprehensive analysis of your current security posture, runs compliance checks to consolidate risk, and maps entity-level controls, all from a single dashboard.
It can identify vulnerabilities, expose weaknesses and high-risk practices, mitigate the risk of attacks, and continue to foster trust and confidence with your key investors and customers alike. Get in touch with us now to know more.
CTA: Join Sprinto’s 450+ satisfied compliance conquerors
What is the level of security posture?
The level of visibility you have into your attack surface and asset inventory. The processes and controls you have in place to protect your enterprise against cyber-attacks as well as the ability to detect and contain attacks.
What are the 3 IT security posture principles?
The key principles for a better IT Security Posture are
What are the 5 examples of application security?
The examples of application cyber-security developers use code to reduce security flaws in the application are:
- Application security testing
What is the difference between security posture and maturity?
The difference between security posture and maturity is that in security posture, you need to implement the guidelines and best practices to prevent and respond to cyber-attacks. And on the other hand security maturity involves the systematic process of assessing and measuring security performance.
Ayush Saxena is a senior security and compliance writer. Ayush is fascinated by the world of hacking and cybersecurity. He specializes in curating the latest trends and emerging technologies in cybersecurity to provide relevant and actionable insights. You can find him hiking, travelling or listening to music in his free time.
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