Effective cyber security requires more than a ‘checkbox approach’

24 March 2022 Consultancy-me.com 5 min. read
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When managing their cyber security operations, most businesses tend to ensure they are compliant with regulatory requirements and other industry standards. However, in order to stay ahead of the curve in today’s rapidly changing threats landscape, businesses should move beyond checkbox compliance and adopt more a proactive cyber strategy, writes Loai Al Omari from Devoteam.

Under the pressure of complex and ever-evolving regulations, many organizations today rely on an approach to cybersecurity that centers around compliance, rather than a comprehensive risk management strategy. As a result, companies wind up with an arsenal of security technologies that may tick the right boxes on paper but provide inadequate security in practice.

Such compliance-focused cybersecurity however falls short. Under the ‘compliance mentality’, organizations view data protection through the lens of legality only – in essence, just another checklist to mark done so that business can continue as usual.

Effective cyber security requires more than a ‘checkbox approach’

However, in reality, effective security and risk management should go beyond a checkbox approach and transition to an end-to-end, and more proactive compliance approach. Three reasons why:

One size does not fit all

While data protection regulations provide a general baseline for cybersecurity, they cannot account for the widely varied and distinct needs and vulnerabilities of each individual organization. As such, businesses that adhere to a compliance-centric approach leave the door open for cybercriminals looking to exploit specific gaps or weaknesses left by “off-the-shelf” security solutions. 

Instead, organizations need to tailor security solutions to their needs by taking into account key considerations such as the organization’s goals, objectives, existing security frameworks, potential overlap, and identifying areas of vulnerability.

Stuck in the reaction cycle

Within the check-box approach, companies invest tens of millions of dollars into technology solutions that, while delivering compliance, function on an individual basis that can cause problems down the line. When these problems inevitably arise, management teams invest even more money in costly technology they hope will solve the issue, but more isn’t always better.

In reality, these additions can actually result in new security gaps, increased complexity, and limited scalability, all while driving up IT expenditures.

The creation of cybersecurity silos

When organizations rely on a compliance-centric approach to risk management, they can create cybersecurity silos caused by communications breakdowns, lack of collaboration between internal departments, and lack of interconnectivity between the many products, tools, and services used across different business units to manage risk. As a result, data sharing becomes increasingly more difficult (if not impossible) and leaves the company vulnerable to cyber attack.

Threats are continually evolving. A privacy regulation typically prescribes the minimum set of safeguards to protect against known risks. However, these mandates are often not enough to keep up with the rapidly evolving dangers posed by bad actors who are constantly adapting their methods and developing new weapons.

In parallel with the evolution of threats, the attack surface also expands as businesses hire employees, develop vendor relationships, acquire equipment and software. With this in mind, companies must implement routine monitoring and analysis to avoid unnecessary risks and vulnerabilities.

A comprehensive cybersecurity strategy

To maximize the value of existing IT investments and ensure that future purchases will actually improve the security posture of the company, businesses should create a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy customized to the unique needs, objectives, and associated security risks. Four steps to get started:

  1. Assess risks
    Developing a cybersecurity strategy requires an understanding of your company’s risk of attacks and where your current security may be missing the mark. By assessing current risks and risk owners, and the company’s risk appetite, you’ll be able to identify where you should prioritize security measures within your company.
  2. Encourage cybersecurity awareness
    Privacy regulations stipulate that organizations deliver security awareness training, but effective security training requires more than an annual “one-size-fits-all” training event. Instead, organizations should focus on creating a culture of security awareness and developing training around the specific data protection procedures and policies in relation to employees’ roles and responsibilities.
  3. Conduct continuous monitoring
    An ongoing monitoring approach enables companies to see what is happening around regulated data and detect possible breaches before they become a problem. Additionally, continuous visibility allows the business to maintain functional security throughout the entire year – not just during compliance assessments.
  4. Develop a disaster plan
    No matter how strong the cybersecurity controls are, security incidents will still occur, which is why comprehensive security strategies should also include incident response plans. Your plan should involve the creation of a designated response team and communication plan so that all key players know their roles and responsibilities in the event of a breach. 

Empower the cyber journey

While compliance will always be an essential component of business success, in today’s complex and dynamic digital landscape, it’s clear that simply complying with regulatory standards is not enough to ensure business security. Key is to move beyond checkbox compliance to implement powerful, proactive cybersecurity strategies that help closing security gaps, and enhance operational efficiency and business growth.