A cybersecurity posture encompasses an organisation’s overall resilience against cyber-attacks, its preventive protocols, and its capacity to react to emerging threats. Given the increasing numbers and sophistication of cyber threats and hackers, having a well-defined understanding of your organisation’s cybersecurity posture is now more crucial than ever. The pressure from both strict compliance standards and public expectations for safeguarding sensitive data is intensifying. Traditional online security methods are no longer deemed adequate as hackers become more sophisticated, and companies adopt cloud-based applications. Therefore, organisations are urged to adopt a comprehensive approach to their cybersecurity posture that considers all relevant aspects. This article discusses how to assess your cyber risk posture using tools to evaluate the external attack surface and internal controls.
Cybersecurity posture relates to “the security status of an enterprise’s networks, information, and systems based on information security resources (e.g., people, hardware, software, policies) and capabilities in place to manage the defense of the enterprise and to react as the situation changes.” National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST SP 800-128)
The unique cybersecurity stance you adopt reflects the health and resilience of your organisation in facing cyber threats, defending against attacks, breaches, and intrusions. Establishing this cybersecurity stance holds significance as it shapes your overall cybersecurity strategy, steers your projects, and influences your cybersecurity expenditure over time.
In short, cyber risk posture assessment is the process of evaluating an organisation’s cybersecurity defences and identifying any potential gaps. This assessment can be conducted internally or externally, and it is important to do so on a regular basis to ensure that your organisation is protected from the latest threats. Cyber risk posture assessments allow security professionals to understand what data you have, what infrastructure you have and the value of the assets you are trying to protect.
Methods and Tools for Assessing Externally Facing Assets and Attack Surface
There are a number of tools and methods that can be used to assess externally facing assets and attack surface. Some of the most popular tools include:
- Black Kite: Black Kite is a cyber risk intelligence platform that provides organisations with visibility into their external attack surface. It does this by scanning the internet for exposed assets, such as IP addresses, domains, and subdomains. Black Kite also provides risk ratings for each asset based on its exposure and vulnerability profile.
- Bitsight: Bitsight is another cyber risk intelligence platform that helps organisations assess their external attack surface. It does this by collecting data from a variety of sources, including public records, security researchers, and threat intelligence feeds. Bitsight then uses this data to create a risk rating for each organisation that reflects its overall security posture.
- Risk assessment questionnaires: Traditionally, the method most used to understand a company’s (particularly external parties, like suppliers/vendors) has been to rely on questionnaires that aim to cover a range of topics and questions so that an indication of the coverage and effectiveness of security controls can be obtained.
Methods and Tools for Assessing Internal Assets and Security Controls
In addition to assessing external assets and attack surface, it is also important to assess internal assets and controls. This is achieved via:
- Vulnerability scanning: Vulnerability scanning is the process of identifying known vulnerabilities in IT systems and networks. This is achieved by using a variety of tools, such as Tenable Nessus and Qualys.
- Penetration testing: Penetration testing is the process of testing applications and systems for vulnerabilities and testing for methods to exploit them. This can be done by hiring a third-party penetration testing company or by conducting the testing internally.
- Security controls assessment: Security controls assessment is the process of evaluating the effectiveness of an organisation’s security controls. Increasingly, automated tools that simulate adversarial behaviours relating to known threats are being used to test the effectiveness of security control effectiveness. Cyber resilience to key threats can be measured in an organisation’s security controls’ detection and protection capabilities. It is important therefore, that when testing security controls, that their effectiveness in detecting and preventing adversarial behaviours related to known threats is regularly tested.
Why the Traditional Approach to Risk Assessment Is Outdated
The traditional approach to risk assessment is to rely on internal and external stakeholders to complete manual questionnaires. This approach is outdated for a number of reasons:
- It is time-consuming and difficult to manage.
- It is point-in-time and does not provide continuous visibility into risk.
- It is often inaccurate and incomplete.
- It does not provide empirical evidence of security controls coverage and effectiveness.
How Security Controls Validation Tools Can Help
Surprisingly, even organisations with highly developed cybersecurity departments might lack clarity on their cybersecurity stance. Their preparedness in dealing with security incidents are often also subpar. Often, they struggle to:
- Grasp their current position,
- Align cybersecurity spending with business goals,
- Or follow a defined cybersecurity path for ongoing enhancement.
Security Controls Validation tools can help organisations to assess the effectiveness of their security controls against known threat scenarios, such as ransomware. These tools do this by simulating real-world attacks and measuring the ability of security controls to detect and prevent them.
One example of a Security Controls Validation tool is Validato. Validato enables organisations to test the techniques and methods used by key threat actors and malware regularly and safely. These assessments provide organisations with a clear understanding of how well their security controls are working and where any gaps may exist.
In the realm of cybersecurity, it’s evident that organisations grapple with selecting the right strategies to safeguard their data, optimise their cybersecurity investment, and yield measurable returns. Irrespective of the industry, understanding your cybersecurity position is pivotal for constructing a durable security strategy. This approach secures your organisation, outlines a clear cybersecurity path, and fortifies your defenses progressively over time.
Cyber risk posture assessment is an essential part of any organisation’s cybersecurity programme. By regularly assessing your organisation’s external and internal assets and controls, you can identify and mitigate potential security risks.
Security Controls Validation tools can be a valuable addition to your cyber risk posture assessment programme. These tools can help you to assess the effectiveness of your security controls against known threat scenarios, and provide you with the information you need to improve your overall security posture. Get in touch with the team at Validato to experience the latest in Security Controls Validation services.