What is cyber security risk mitigation?
With a cyberattack occurring worldwide every 44 seconds, companies can no longer afford to be complacent about their cyber security posture. Similarly, organisations can’t adopt a “set and forget” mindset regarding their cyber security: which sees them institute policies and controls and expect them to be effective in the long term. Instead, companies need to devise ongoing cyber security risk mitigation strategies that account for their growing attack surface and a growing array of evolving cyber threats.
But what is risk mitigation in cyber security? More specifically, what does that mean for your company? Let’s look at different cyber security risk mitigation strategies and how they can help better secure your company’s IT infrastructure.
What are examples of cyber risk mitigation?
Utilising continuous monitoring tools: constantly looking for vulnerabilities within your network instead of periodically with “point-in-time” testing.
Implementing access control: ensuring data remains confidential, i.e., only available to those with the appropriate permissions.
Reducing supply chain risk: performing a full audit of all external parties that have access to your data and assets and improving the security controls surrounding them.
Implementing network segmentation: dividing a network into subnets to restrict a malicious actor’s access to data and assets in the event of a breach.
Creating a disaster recovery plan: assuming the worst and developing a comprehensive strategy to guarantee business continuity if malicious damage to a company’s infrastructure.
Installing antivirus software and firewalls: monitoring network traffic, removing malicious code, and preventing users from accessing unsecured sites.
Developing a patch management process: consistently discovering and applying patches and fixes to your company’s software and firmware.
Why is it essential for businesses to implement cyber risk mitigation strategies?
Cyber security risk mitigation offers several crucial benefits to companies.
- Anticipate cyberthreats: to develop the appropriate cyber risk mitigation strategies, a company needs to be aware of the particular threats they face. This creates a more security-conscious company culture that anticipates cyber threats and consistently works to mitigate them.
- Increased protection of IT infrastructure: the most prominent benefit of devising and implementing IT risk mitigation strategies is better securing your company’s network and its data and assets. With increased awareness of your company’s cyberthreats, security teams can establish the necessary policies and controls to mitigate cyberattacks.
- Avoid the cost of security breaches: With the cost of a data breach in 2022 averaging $4.35 million, companies have a massive financial incentive to take their cyber security risk mitigation efforts seriously.
- Compliance: devising IT risk mitigation strategies help ensure your company has the policies and controls to comply with data security regulations like PCI DSS, GDPR and other industry-specific legislation.
- Reputation: suffering a breach and the resulting fallout, including loss of revenue and customer data, potential penalties and punitive action, etc., can damage your company’s reputation. In contrast, developing cyber security mitigation strategies shows your clients, stakeholders, etc., that you’re committed to protecting their data and can enhance your standing in your industry.
What are the 4 cybersecurity risk treatment mitigation methods?
Avoidance: implementing measures to prevent a threat from occurring entirely.
Reduction: also known as control, this sees a company devise a strategy for reducing the risk’s probability or its impact should it occur.
Transference: passing on the risk to a third party, e.g., suppliers or insurance brokers.
Acceptance: deciding to accept the risk and its potential consequences. This typically applies to threats with a low likelihood of transpiring and/or the adverse effects are manageable.
8 effective strategies for mitigating cyberattacks
Update and upgrade all software
Outdated applications often have vulnerabilities that are well-known to hackers and other malicious actors. So much so, in fact, that research suggests that unpatched software is responsible for as much as 1/3 of cyber security breaches. Unfortunately, the older the software, the less frequently its developer will release fixes and patches for it – until, at worst, they stop releasing updates for it altogether. As a result, upgrading to newer software is a crucial cyber security risk mitigation strategy.
Not only is newer software more robust and secure, with fewer exploits for cybercriminals to become aware of, but they are updated more frequently. Subsequently, you should apply fixes and patches as soon as they’re made available and subscribe to automatic updates where possible.
Limit access and control to accounts
Creating a secure access control system is another potent cyber security control strategy. One of the fundamental principles of information security is confidentiality, and access control reinforces this by ensuring that data, systems, and resources can only be accessed by accounts that are authorised to do so. As well as preventing theft and damage by malicious actors in the event of a breach, limiting access and control to accounts mitigates the threat of insiders.
Restricting access and control to accounts requires your security teams to create an access control list (ACL): which determines who has access to resources, why they have access, and under what conditions. The ACL is governed by an access control policy that determines how individuals are granted access permissions. Common access policies include role-based access control, which grants permissions based on a person’s job role, or attribute-based access control, which takes characteristics like the individual’s position, geolocation, and type of action (read, write, delete, etc.) into account.
Create a comprehensive system recovery plan
Although preventing cyberattacks is the ultimate goal of cyber security risk mitigation, the rapid increase in the type and number of cyberthreats and their constantly evolving nature means it’s increasingly difficult to prevent breaches altogether. As a result, your company’s cyber security risk mitigation strategies need to include a detailed system recovery plan in the event of a cyber security breach.
Your system recovery plan needs to protect critical data, systems, and configurations and a series of processes for restoring them as quickly as possible to ensure business continuity in a series of “worst-case” scenarios. This includes:
- Creating an incident response and system recovery team: assembling the right personnel from a variety of business units: i.e., IT, security, operations, etc., who’ll be responsible for implementing the plan and the resources they’ll have at their disposal
- Auditing assets and identifying vulnerabilities: perform an audit of your company’s systems, applications and data and determine their vulnerabilities
- Prioritising: prioritise your recovery response according to the sensitivity of each asset, how vulnerable it is, and the likelihood of it being compromised
- Backing up data: backups should be encrypted, stored off-site, and enable the quick and complete recovery of devices and systems
- Creating a communications strategy: create a crisis communication plan, detailing how to inform internal stakeholders, investors, customers, and the general public about a security breach.
- Regularly testing and updating your recovery plan: periodically test the effectiveness of your recovery plan and update it as necessary to reflect changes in your IT infrastructure.
A thorough and tested system recovery plan prepares you for potential cyber security incidents and prevents your company from being caught entirely off-guard. More importantly, it ensures that your employees know their roles and responsibilities in the event of a breach and can spring into action to mitigate the threat.
Always be on the lookout for network intrusions
While point-in-time security assessments will help you to identify and eliminate some cyberthreats, they have limited efficacy as a cyber security risk mitigation strategy. The constantly-changing nature of the environments within your IT infrastructure and the expanding variety of ever-evolving cyberattacks makes it likely your network has been compromised between static assessments – regardless of how frequently you carry them out.
To try and stay in step with malicious actors, you need to continuously monitor your network for threats and intrusions. Automated Continuous Monitoring tools constantly detect and assess vulnerabilities in your company’s IT infrastructure. They provide accurate, real-time insights into your company’s cyber security posture and the ongoing efficacy of its information security policies and controls. With the end-to-end visibility required to identify potential vulnerabilities in your attack surface consistently, security teams can quickly mitigate emerging cyberthreats as soon as they arise – instead of allowing them to spread through your network.
Best of all, automated continuous monitoring tools such as Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) software and Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) solutions use AI to analyse vast amounts of real-time data far better and faster than humans can. Additionally, they utilise machine learning (ML) algorithms to identify subtle patterns of malicious activity before they inflict considerable damage, such as a RiskXchange Platform. Consequently, companies that use AI-assisted, automated monitoring tools had a 74-day shorter breach lifecycle and saved an average of $3 million more than those that don’t.
Install firewalls and antivirus software
Installing a firewall and antivirus software is among the simplest and most cost-effective cyber security risk mitigation strategies.
A firewall acts as a barrier between your company’s network and the external world (i.e., the internet). It monitors and filters traffic according to your security policies and prevents unwanted traffic from entering your network. Subsequently, an antivirus solution scans your network and its devices for malware and other malicious code – and removes it. Antivirus software also informs users if they’re attempting to connect to an unsecured site, which could contain malicious code or be involved in a phishing scheme.
However, as with the other software and services within your It infrastructure, it’s vital to consistently update your firewall and antivirus software to account for newly discovered vulnerabilities and emerging cyberthreats.
Enable multifactor authentication
Multifactor authentication (MFA) is a cyber security measure that requires a user to prove their identity in two or more ways before they’re granted access to a system or asset within your network. Instead of merely entering a username and password to log in, a user must provide at least two of the following means of authentication:
Something they know (Knowledge)
- Username and password or pin
- Answers to personal security questions
Something they have (Possession)
- A one-time password (OTP) sent via SMS or email
- An OTP generated by a mobile smartphone app, security fob (i.e., an RSA token), or USB device
- A smart card, access badge, or similar security credential
Things they are (Inherence)
- Fingerprint or retina scanning, voice or facial recognition, or other biometric markers.
Because MFA requires a user to supply a minimum of two methods of ID verification factors, it’s an effective IT risk mitigation strategy. Additionally, MFA can help security teams pinpoint potential intrusion attempts, whereby a cybercriminal acquires a username and password, e.g., in a phishing attempt but doesn’t have the other means of authentication, like the user’s security fob. Intrusion detection tools will flag the unsuccessful attempt to log in and take it as a sign of malicious activity for security teams to address.
Segregate your networks
Network segmentation is the process of separating your company’s critical apps and services from the rest of the network. In particular, network segregation requires security teams to place their company’s most sensitive assets in a separate sub-network, or subnet, which is kept away from less critical and more exposed internet-facing assets, such as web servers. Security teams can then apply distinct security policies and controls to critical subnets and restrict the amount of traffic that can reach them.
Segregating a network makes it more secure by placing an additional security perimeter around your most important assets. In the event of infiltration, a malicious actor won’t be able to freely access your company’s critical data and services, despite breaching your network perimeter. As well as being an effective cyber security risk mitigation approach, segregation improves a network’s performance by redirecting traffic more effectively.
Monitor your third-party access
A crucial yet often overlooked aspect of a company’s cyber security is third party risk management and mitigation. Monitoring third-party access to your data and systems is essential, as malicious actors can exploit vulnerabilities within your supply chain network and use them to breach your network. To mitigate the cyber security risks posed by third-party access, your security teams need to:
- Catalogue every software asset, i.e., applications, systems, etc., within your company’s IT infrastructure. From there, they can determine which assets:
- are supplied by a third party
- external parties can access.
This will reveal the size of your supply chain network and the likely extent of third-party access to your systems.
- Determine the sensitivity of the data, assets, and systems that third parties can access.
- Determine which policies and controls are in place to govern third-party access – if at all.
- Prioritise the resources that third parties have access to in terms of sensitivity and risk and implement monitoring policies and controls to secure each better.
Effective monitoring of your third-party access gives your security teams greater visibility into the extended attack surface that your supply chain network represents and an enhanced ability to mitigate threats against it.
See how we can help you with your cyber security risk mitigation strategies
Improving your company’s cyber security posture can be such a monumental task that it’s difficult to know where to start.
We can assist you in prioritising your company’s cyber security risk mitigation strategies by identifying the most significant risks to your IT infrastructure. More importantly, we can help you determine if you’ve already suffered a security breach and how to eliminate the threat with the help of an integrated risk management platform. To get started, contact RiskXchange for a free attack surface assessment.