Definition

security posture

Security posture refers to an organization's overall cybersecurity strength and how well it can predict, prevent and respond to ever-changing cyberthreats.

An organization's security posture comprises its networks, information security, network security, data security and internet security, as well as penetration testing (pen testing), vendor risk management, vulnerability management, data breach prevention, security awareness training for employees to prevent social engineering attacks, and other security controls.

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A company's security posture, however, isn't static. Rather, it is constantly changing to respond to new vulnerabilities and threats in the cybersecurity landscape. As such, enterprises are transitioning from fragmented tools and outdated security strategies to an end-to-end security posture that can protect against these new threats and vulnerabilities.

What a strong security posture protects you from

A strong security posture aims to protect organizations against cybersecurity threats by detecting and preventing malware intrusions and data breaches, as well as preventing the theft of intellectual property (IP).

For example, a company that requires employees, third-party vendors and customers to use two-factor (2FA) or multifactor authentication (MFA) -- or at least cycle through complex passwords-- to log in to its website can keep corporate data safe.

In addition, implementing firewalls, antivirus and antimalware tools as part of a strong security posture can help a company deter cyberattacks by making it more difficult for cybercriminals to break into its network and steal sensitive information.

Implementing antiphishing and email security tools as part of a comprehensive security posture can help a company stop spam from making its way to users' inboxes. These tools will also scan messages and remove any malicious content before forwarding them to the company's mail server.

Strategies to strengthen security posture

Organizations are constantly faced with a variety of cybersecurity challenges, such as how to reduce vast attack surfaces, how to secure their IT assets and how to keep hackers from breaching their systems. There are a number of ways companies can enhance their security postures to meet these challenges, including the following:

  • Create a cybersecurity framework. Companies should align their security requirements with the goals and objectives of the business.
  • Perform a risk assessment. A risk assessment identifies the level of vulnerability across an organization's assets. The results will enable organizations to determine what they need to do to improve their security postures and help identify the security controls they should put in place to protect the business against future attacks.
  • Prioritize risk. After identifying the asset vulnerabilities, enterprises should then rank them based on the overall risk they pose to the business and determine what to work on first.
  • Implement automated cybersecurity tools. Using automated tools can help reduce incident response times and prevent hackers from infiltrating the network.
  • Educate workers. Security training should be part of the onboarding process. In addition, companies should regularly test employees on their knowledge of the organizations' cybersecurity policies, including their social media
  • Control administrative access privileges. Organizations should only grant administrative access privileges to a small group of employees. Allowing too many people to modify hardware and operating system (OS) settings can be disastrous to companies' security postures.
  • Track security metrics. Security metrics enable companies to accurately measure the effectiveness of their cybersecurity practices. Security metrics can also help organizations uncover ways to mitigate risk, as well as help prioritize future risk. To be effective, a security metrics program depends heavily on what enterprises decide to measure. Consequently, it's important that companies track the metrics that affect the business from an operational and strategic perspective.

Security posture assessment

Conducting a security posture assessment enables organizations to understand where they stand in their cybersecurity journeys. It can help an organization determine what it needs to do in order to strengthen its security postures through providing a concrete cybersecurity roadmap.

Security posture assessments are based on these assumptions:

  • Companies must know the importance of what data they have and what tools they have to protect it.
  • Enterprises should be able to know where they stand.
  • Organizations must know what they need to develop and what direction they need to go to get there.
  • Companies need to know how to keep the momentum of security going.

A security posture assessment helps organizations design and develop appropriate cybersecurity roadmaps within their business continuity (BC) planning and overall security programs. In addition, security posture assessments give companies an overall view of their internal and external security postures by combining all the aspects of their cybersecurity practices into one comprehensive assessment.

Security posture assessments help enterprises assess and improve their security postures in the following ways:

  • identifying and managing the value of their data;
  • defining the threat exposure and cyber-risks of their data;
  • evaluating if they have appropriate, reliable and efficient security measures in place; and
  • recommending a concrete action plan -- i.e., a cybersecurity roadmap -- to help companies better control their risk exposures and strengthen their cybersecurity defenses.

This was last updated in February 2020

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