Cybersecurity framework: Build it the right way

Navigating the vast and dangerous ocean of cybersecurity is becoming increasingly challenging. But a cybersecurity framework provides organizations with a roadmap they can follow and puts them on the fast track to a stronger and more comprehensive security posture. Different frameworks are available for organizations to utilize when embarking on their cybersecurity journey. In this guide, we will get you started on a sound cybersecurity policy for your company.

What is cybersecurity?

We hear of it and read it everywhere. Many accepted definitions exist, including: the ability to protect or defend an organization’s use of cyberspace from malicious attack (conducted via cyberspace) whereby data or an environment is disabled, disrupted, or destroyed. Another is the process of protecting information by preventing, detecting, and responding to attacks. And, of course, there’s the so-called three pillars of information security: preservation of confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information in cyberspace. The crux of it is that cybersecurity aims to protect organizations from those who wish to do harm — this could be through stealing data, money, or using and organization’s system to target others.

Cybersecurity is multifaceted, and most organizations find it challenging to comprehensively implement it. This is why a cybersecurity framework is not only an excellent idea but fundamental to many organization’s achieving a successful cybersecurity outcome.

Cybersecurity is an area that is fast-paced. Cybercriminals are persistently adapting and improving their methods of attack, thus the cybersecurity approach should amplify the organization’s ability to defend and protect itself continously.

Cybersecurity guidance for organizations to assess and improve their capability to prevent, detect, and respond to cyberattacks is imperative, and this is exactly the function of a cybersecurity framework. It can guide organizations through the necessary controls to ensure that all the fundamental areas are addressed.

What is a cybersecurity framework?

cybersecurity framework

A cybersecurity framework can be a single framework, a combination of frameworks, or an adaptation of a single framework or multiples. Whatever you decide, it must work for the organization and its processes and should address all the necessary security areas. It should be a living entity, and is by no means a one-size-fits all standard. It should be easily adaptable and future-proof because as business develops — or practices and standards change — adaptations to policies should be possible to maintain and advance security.

A further attribute of a cybersecurity framework is the ability to achieve a shared understanding, a way of governing, and a means of communicating cybersecurity risk within the organization and with third parties. Moreover, actions for reducing cybersecurity risk can be more effectively identified and actions can be prioritized to manage the risk through incorporating policies and procedures where needed.

Multiple frameworks exist: ISO (various), ISO 27k NIST, PAS, PCI, NERC CIP, COBIT (to name a few). Different countries, regions, organizations, and people have their preferences. Nevertheless, the majority of these frameworks will provide the key foundational security controls as they are mostly common for all the frameworks. Achieving these foundational controls ensures a good reinforcement of defense. Foundation controls such as having control of the organizational assets (both hardware and software), a process to continuously assess vulnerabilities, and a method to govern administrative privileges are essential areas to get right.

A cybersecurity framework can assist with:

  • Demonstrating security competence.
  • Meeting regulatory and compliance requirements.
  • Providing customer assurance in risk management.
  • Keeping confidential information secure.
  • Allowing secure information exchange.
  • Providing the company with a competitive advantage.
  • Improving client retentions through security satisfaction.
  • Reducing and managing exposure to risk.
  • Consistency in product and service delivery.
  • Protecting company assets.

Risk-based approach to security

Cybersecurity framework

A consistent and interactive approach to cybersecurity is essential for identifying, assessing, and managing cybersecurity risk. This is true for any size and type of business and any extent of threat exposure.

A framework incorporates standards, parameters, and best practices to assist organizations to realize their current cybersecurity posture, realize their desired cybersecurity posture, identify and organize areas where change is needed or find the gaps that need to be addressed, assess progress to reach their desired target, and better communicate cybersecurity risk. It opens organizations up to consider cybersecurity risk, and this is a central way to approach cybersecurity.

Any framework should guide organizations through the relative controls so that the company can put procedures and policies in place to achieve a more comprehensive and effective cybersecurity posture.

Any framework should facilitate cybersecurity undertakings and guide organizations through five key categories:

Identify cybersecurity risk

It is important to recognize that this area does not directly relate to IT services. This step in the process is to help improve the organization’s understanding to manage cybersecurity risk to systems, assets, and data. It is to ensure knowledge is gained on the business function, the business resources and assets so that a better understanding of related cybersecurity risk can be gauged, the organization’s risk tolerance considered, and risk can then be properly managed. This is essential in the process, and thorough development in this area will ensure that the processes to follow run more smoothly and more easily. (Asset identification, valuation and management, governance, risk assessment, and risk management.)

Protect against cybersecurity risk

To acquire and implement procedures to ensure the provision of the organization’s critical services. Includes methods to limit and contain any impact due to a cybersecurity incident. (Education and training, access control, data security, and protection, continual improvement, and maintenance of the security procedures.)

Detect cybersecurity threats

To ensure that the organization is able to detect a cybersecurity incident through developing and implementing the necessary controls. This ensures that the company can detect the incident occurring in a timely manner so that the next steps (response and recovering) can follow swiftly to limit any effects of the incident. (Technologies and processes for continuous monitoring and detection of any anomalies.)

Respond to cybersecurity threats

To ensure that the organisation can swiftly and efficiently respond to a cybersecurity incident. (Development and implementation of a response plan, guidance on communication in the event of an incident occurring, a process to evaluate, mitigate, and improve)

Recover from a cybersecurity threat or attack

To ensure that the organization can maintain resilience and recover from a cybersecurity incident. The ability to spring back and restore services that were impacted, in a timely manner, is very important so that the impact of the cybersecurity incident is kept to a minimum. (Development and implementation of a recovery plan, guidance on communication, a process to evaluate, mitigate, and improve.)

Frameworks offer guidance

Implementing a cybersecurity framework is certainly beneficial in many ways, and, over time, the benefits unquestionably become broader and more evident. To successfully implement a cybersecurity framework, many organizations find that they must overcome numerous barriers. These may include staff shortfalls, a staff where skills may be lacking, insufficient support from management, and limited budgets. And there may be technical barriers, such as not having the necessary tools for automating controls or the inability to automatically audit controls. Problems with integrating new tools is also a common hurdle. In order to realize the complete benefits, automation is important, and as long as organizations rely essentially on manual efforts, the cybersecurity framework cannot reach its full potential.

Implementing a cybersecurity framework will assist organizations with achieving an acceptable baseline security control. This helps with: complying to regulatory as well as contractual obligations, improving security (for employees, processes, and technologies), proving security readiness, and avoiding scrutiny from auditors or regulators. It also enhances the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the online environment. Last but not least, it offers perimeter defense.

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