A guide to cybersecurity metrics and KPIs

a guide to cybersecurity metrics and KPIs

Cybersecurity metrics are types of data a business tracks on a regular basis. Not only does this data help organisations make key decisions but also provides a basis for bolstering overall cybersecurity measures. Cybersecurity teams should have a set of metrics that they track regularly, some companies even track them daily.  

Utilising the proper cybersecurity metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) will help organisations of any size respond to risks more efficiently and cost-effectively. To assess the effectiveness of your cybersecurity metrics, you should start monitoring and measuring KPIs. Read on to find out more. 

What are KPIs for cybersecurity? 

Preventing costly data breaches, detecting cyberattacks and protecting sensitive data are key for businesses in today’s online and digital age. In order to protect your assets a checklist should be followed to track your efforts – key performance indicators. KPIs are an effective way to measure the success of cybersecurity within any organisation and can also be used in key decision-making.  

KPIs for cybersecurity provide valuable insights that demonstrate the success of security management to improving an organisation’s cybersecurity strategy. KPIs in cybersecurity are crucial for making important business decisions and helping the organisation meet its long-term objectives effectively. They are also pivotal for key stakeholders to justify cybersecurity investment and security costs. 

KPIs provide a broader business context of how a security program works within an organisation. Not only can KPIs help pinpoint which areas need attention but also what has been implemented correctly, which allows cybersecurity teams to continuously monitor and improve controls and systems. Due to the constant evolution of cybersecurity threats, KPIs are now an important part of measuring performance and driving key cybersecurity decisions. 

Why are cybersecurity metrics important? 

Cybersecurity metrics are important because they provide quantitative values which highlight the level of impenetrability and protection achieved by an organisation’s security controls. Cybersecurity metrics are generally defined in view of various security factors such as incident identification time, number of incidents reported, incident resolving time, implications (reputation, cost, etc.) of an attack, fluctuations in the number of incidents, and more. Once effective cybersecurity metrics and measures are in place, IT and cybersecurity teams can work towards achieving the goals set out in an organisation’s cybersecurity program.  

Cybersecurity priorities within most organisations have shifted more towards a holistic and targeted approach. Risky outcomes are becoming less visible as businesses are investing in cybersecurity and appreciate the value it brings to their organisation. Cybersecurity teams now focus on delivering a Consistent, Adequate, Reasonable, and Effective (CARE) security performance for credibility. What that in mind, cybersecurity metrics can be categorised into four operational categories: 

  • Consistency: Security controls must be regularly assessed to determine their effectiveness over time. 
  • Adequacy: Ensure that the security program meets business objectives and stakeholder expectations. 
  • Reasonableness: Utilised to observe whether the security controls are appropriate, fair, and moderate, based on customer impact and operational conflicts they cause. 
  • Effectiveness: Used to assess whether security resources provide the desired outcome. 

10 cybersecurity metrics and KPIs to track  

Cybersecurity metrics and KPIs depend on the organisation’s use case, risk appetite and regulation span. It’s important for businesses to select KPIs that are easy-to-understand by everyone, from customers to associates in all levels of the business. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at 10 cybersecurity metrics best practices, and KPIs to track and assess cybersecurity performance: 

Level of preparedness 

Level of preparedness relates to the practice of ensuring that your business has a strategy in place to prevent, respond and recover from a cyber incident. Building and finalising this strategy should be a company-wide collaborative effort led by the IT cybersecurity team. 

Intrusion attempts 

Tracking intrusion attempts provides a view of existing vulnerabilities as well as the preparedness of security measures and response teams. A large number of intrusion attempts indicate a wide attack surface where malicious actors can leverage existing vulnerabilities as an entry point. Cybersecurity teams can monitor access logs and firewalls to determine the number of times hackers have attempted to attack a system, the number of successes, and the origin of each attack. The data helps security teams make informed decisions regarding security hardening procedures and intrusion detection systems. 

Mean time to detect (MTTD) 

MTTD relates to the average time taken to detect a risk or a cyber threat. The aim is, of course, to achieve this goal as quickly as possible. It is a key component of cybersecurity because the faster an organisation identifies an attack, the faster it will be to contain it and cause less damage. 

Mean time to respond (MTTR) 

MTTR relates to the average time taken to respond to a risk or threat. As with MTTD, the aim is, of course, to achieve this goal as quickly as possible. The speed at which you can neutralise a threat and get systems back online is key to minimising the amount of damage caused and cutting of costs. 

Mean time to contain (MTTC) 

MTTC relates to the average time taken to contain a risk or threat. The aim again is, of course, to achieve this goal as quickly as possible. The speed at which you shut down all attack vectors across all endpoints and minimise the probability of more damage is key to business success. 

Security incidents 

A security incident is an event that disrupts normal operations via system hardware or software. A security incident is a cybersecurity event that may indicate that an organisation’s data or systems have been compromised or the measures in place to protect them have failed. By continuously monitoring for security incidents, cybersecurity teams can be best prepared for almost every eventuality.  

First party security ratings  

Security ratings quantify and proactively help you mitigate cyber risk across your entire business ecosystem by delivering real-time continuous risk ratings and analysis using advanced risk quantification methods. 

Non-human traffic (NHT) 

NHT monitoring is the metric used to measure the amount of non-human traffic triggered by bots. If you fail to take action against NHT, your KPIs will be compromised, and your overall cybersecurity goals will most probably fail.  

Virus monitoring 

Virus monitoring is key to spotting potential viruses or malware issues in any organisation’s software, network or systems. Continuously monitoring for any viruses alongside the other key elements listed here are key for cybersecurity success in today’s digital age.  

Phishing attacks 

Phishing attacks are a huge threat to corporate cybersecurity. They are becoming more sophisticated in nature and difficult to detect. Not only do they allow hackers to steal user credentials, but they can be used to steal money and plant malware on systems. Ensure that staff are educated on the indicators of a phishing attempt and that organisations are geared up to spot the signs and thwart attacks. 

How RiskXchange can help you 

Tracking and measuring KPIs is key to helping your organisation improve its cybersecurity practices. Without tracking specific metrics, it is almost impossible to understand how effective cybersecurity efforts are or if standards have deteriorated over time. Without tracking the right type of cybersecurity metrics, making progress in vendor security is a difficult task. That’s why leading cybersecurity firms like RiskXchange are key to business success in 2023 and beyond. 

RiskXchange can help businesses of all sizes track their vendor security which will allow them to resolve one of their greatest issues – communication with business stakeholders. The right cybersecurity metrics can convey the proper state of vendor security to those who do not have a technical background. They can make a direct connection between vendor security information and ROI, profitability, and operating costs – a crucial factor for mobilising a company into improving vendor security. Therefore, following the right metrics is key to reaping these rewards. 

Get in touch with RiskXchange to find out more about outcome-driven metrics for cybersecurity in the digital era.