What is a cybersecurity posture and how do you assess it?

What is a cybersecurity posture and how do you assess it?

Cybersecurity professionals are very aware that the threat landscape is evolving at a rapid rate. Malicious actors are becoming more experienced in their methods and are using sophisticated weapons to attack organisations to steal valuable assets. Therefore, it is fundamentally important to protect organisations, large or small, against cybercriminals.  

The first step is to assess your cybersecurity posture to determine where the weaknesses are. The next step is to strengthen your security posture to ensure your assets are protected at all times. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at how best to understand your cybersecurity posture and the ways to assess it. 

What is a security posture? 

So, what is cybersecurity posture all about? Cybersecurity posture refers to the overall cybersecurity strength of an organisation. This posture reflects the security of an IT network, estate, or system, particularly relating to the internet and the defences in place to prevent an attack. 

How an organisation’s software and hardware are managed through controls, policies or procedures are the main basis of cybersecurity. Although each one can be tackled individually, the collective and holistic approach of dealing with them as one is known as a cybersecurity posture

Cybersecurity posture includes not only the condition of the IT infrastructure, but also the state of processes, practices, and human behaviours. Although the latter can be difficult to measure, observing such practices is crucial in ensuring a tight and secure cybersecurity posture.  

When managing cybersecurity for entities, organisations and individuals, decisions must be made based on the overall cybersecurity posture of the collective. Decision making on individual elements of your cybersecurity landscape is not enough, a holistic approach based on the overall cybersecurity posture is key. An overall assessment of risk and the elements that define the interaction of virtual, physical, and human factors help define and ultimately strengthen a cybersecurity posture.  

What does a cybersecurity posture allow? 

A cybersecurity posture allows you the ability to conduct the following: 

  • Take a holistic approach to help determine the likelihood of a breach, rather than take an individualistic look at each element which will not necessarily provide an accurate risk assessment.  
  • Take control and investigate third-party vendors to be able to evaluate the risk to your network or system. 
  • Take stock of your risk factors, determining what risk you choose to accept, mitigate, or transfer to an insurer.  
  • Compare your cybersecurity posture to other organisations in the industry. 
  • Prioritise actions, investments, and partners with a complete picture of potential risks.  

Cybersecurity posture assessment 

Understanding your company’s cybersecurity posture is key to defending your organisation against cyberattacks and costly data breaches. By determining where your organisation is most vulnerable you can establish a plan for developing a more secure environment.  

Constantly monitoring and maintaining your cybersecurity posture is key to staying on top of any potential breaches. Threat actors are constantly finding new ways of being able to infiltrate a system, so staying one step ahead of them by maintaining a healthy cybersecurity posture is fundamentally important.  

Collectively grouping policies or systems, workplace culture, risk-analysis programs and employee education are an extremely important part of the process. Being able to identify vulnerabilities will help a proactive response as opposed to reacting to cybersecurity threats retrospectively. Failing to do so can result in data breaches, cyberattack, loss in revenue and reputational damage.  

Step one of a cybersecurity posture assessment 

Identifying your business needs and objectives is the first step in evaluating your cybersecurity posture. Taking these approaches is a fundamental part of building your security framework. This will differ depending on the organisation and what their focus is. For example, if remote working is a focus of your organisation, then security policies geared toward mobile devices and remote network access will be the priority. The first stage of cybersecurity posture should always be to defend the organisation against attack.  

Step two of a cybersecurity posture assessment 

The next step should be to focus on developing a risk management program to list assets from least to most vulnerable to create a cybersecurity posture rating. After identifying points of vulnerability, a cybersecurity framework can be laid out as well as implementing processes or systems that can minimise security risk.  

Step three of a cybersecurity posture assessment 

Strengthening your cybersecurity posture should extend far beyond the IT department of your organisation. Educating employees on workplace culture, roles and responsibilities and cybersecurity best practices helps them when it comes to protecting sensitive information. Third-party vendor assessments are also extremely important at this stage to determine what their vulnerabilities are and what damage they could potentially cause to your organisation.  

Maintaining a sustainable strengthened cybersecurity posture 

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) outlines the best ways of maintaining a sustainable strengthened cybersecurity posture. The agency details how organisations can avoid staff burnout during an extended period of heightened cyber threat.  

During an extended period of heightened cyber threat, your workforce, network, systems, and processes will all come under pressure. The NCSC explains how to maintain a strengthened cyber posture in a sustainable and efficient way, whilst prioritising staff wellbeing. The agency underlines that looking after your staff is not only important from a HR perspective – it also directly contributes towards maintaining an organisation’s security and resilience. 

What’s more, there may be periods when the cyber threat is heightened for an extended period, for example as a result of geopolitical tensions. During these periods, organisations will experience: 

  • an initial acute phase (when they are required to strengthen their defences and address vulnerabilities), followed by 
  • a protracted phase (when a strengthened cyber posture should be maintained to manage the residual risk from the increase in threat). 

How to improve your cybersecurity posture

With the above in mind, let’s take a closer look at what the NCSC says you should consider when strengthening your cybersecurity posture: 

Get the basics right 

A good way to remain vigilant to the heightened cyber threat is to ensure that the basic hygiene controls within your organisation are in place and functioning correctly. 

Revisit your risk-based decisions 

During the initial acute phase of heightened cyber threat, you will have taken risk-based decisions to introduce temporary additional defences. Revisit these on a regular basis to ensure that security is factored in for the long-term. 

Improve long-term cyber resilience 

An extended period of heightened cyber threat may reflect long-term shifts in adversary capability or intent and so you may need to strengthen your cyber security and resilience on a permanent basis.  

Empower your staff to make decisions 

During a period of heightened cyber threat, senior managers will rightly want additional oversight of the response, but this can also put extra pressures on frontline teams. It may be more efficient for leaders to delegate day-to-day decision-making to appropriate levels so that leaders can focus on medium-term priorities. 

Spread workloads evenly 

Individuals and teams most exposed to the response can quickly become overloaded. Organisations can be more resilient if workloads are more evenly spread across a wider pool of staff. 

Give staff a break 

A period of heightened cyber threat may lead to staff working longer hours and taking fewer breaks. Over an extended period, this could have a negative impact on staff wellbeing and increase the risk of burnout. Make sure they have breaks! 

Look after each other 

Staff involved in the response could be exposed to harmful or distressing content, difficult decisions, or high-pressure situations, all of which could negatively affect their wellbeing. Take on a “look after each other” approach. 

Engage the entire workforce 

While this guidance focuses on the staff most exposed to the response, during a period of heightened cyber threat the whole workforce has a role to play in strengthening an organisation’s cyber defences.  

How RiskXchange can help improve your cybersecurity posture 

RiskXchange uses data-driven insights to prevent breaches, helping organisations of all sizes pinpoint weaknesses to bolster their cybersecurity posture and to improve information security measures. With full visibility over your eco-systems’ entire attack surface in near real-time, you can regularly monitor and mitigate risks to prevent unnecessary exposures.  

RiskXchange’s security risk ratings can help you protect your data and manage cyber hygiene in all cases. We offer continuous cybersecurity monitoring, providing real-time visibility of users and their devices on all applications, software, and device types. Our cybersecurity monitoring best practices give organisations the ability to continuously look over their network on a case-by-case basis to stay one step ahead of any cyber threats.  

Our security ratings give a calculated assessment of an organisation’s effectiveness on all aspects of security performance and to protect data. Cybersecurity ratings draw upon a range of data to analyse and inform, ultimately enabling organisations to objectively review and act upon its processes and the security measures it has in place. 

Get in touch with RiskXchange to find out how best to improve your cybersecurity posture.