Every major technological innovation requires the field of cybersecurity to adapt to new challenges. As the world gets more and more connected and the old security measures related to network perimeters become obsolete, keeping company assets secure while also making them accessible by personnel is one of the most important pillars of any IT strategy.
It’s not simply a matter of locking everything in a vault and requiring multiple layers of approval for the use of every piece of data or technology, though some assets do require extreme limits on access and privileges. Employees need the tools to do their jobs without having to jump through hoops, and not all security threats are created equal.
An effective cybersecurity posture considers the severity of each potential threat to the functioning of the organization, how much of the organization could be affected by a data breach, and how wide the attack surface is. Additionally, IT leaders need to factor in how essential a given asset is to the operations of the company. A piece of software might open up the organization to a great deal of risk, but if everyone in the company needs to use it, then it can’t be under lock and key.
While many of the specific measures needed to secure your organization will change with each new wave of technological innovation, the core tenets of cybersecurity in your IT strategy remain the same: Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability—or CIA. The principles of the CIA triad form the cornerstone of any information security infrastructure.
Confidentiality is the aspect of data security that may be the most obvious. It’s the principle that sensitive information should be kept out of the hands of any unauthorized users or viewers. It involves keeping private information private and ensuring that only a select group of people or applications have access to specific assets while unauthorized users are locked out.
The principle of Least Privilege dictates that company personnel should only have access to the minimum number of resources and level of privileges absolutely necessary to do their jobs effectively. For example, mid-level employees in HR might need access to information regarding the company’s budget for contractors, but C-level payroll information is only meant to be available to managers. If every HR employee has access to payroll information for the entire organization, threat actors have a greater number of ways to access company data.
As the number of employees with privileged access to information increases, so too does the risk of malware and ransomware finding their way into the organization. Restricting the breadth of access and level of privileges to as few employees as possible in the organization narrows the attack surface, leaving fewer vectors for threat actors to exploit.
This involves protecting sensitive data from unauthorized modifications, whether adding to, deleting, or changing information. Your IT strategy needs to include measures to make sure your data is authentic and reliable when in use or in transit.
Measures to ensure data integrity include:
This includes authentication of identities, which is related to the Confidentiality pillar. With the rise in social engineering attacks like phishing and scareware, making sure that each human and machine identity is protected by strong authentication and verifying that action is approved is of the utmost importance to protect data from unauthorized modification.
Additionally, data integrity includes the ability to report on and audit each action taken. Even when access and privileges are limited to a select handful of identities, there needs to be a way to verify who did what and when for any transaction that accesses sensitive assets. There is no way for IT leaders to completely eliminate the risk of a data breach through either intentional or unintentional means, so being able to see a comprehensive record of how data has been used can help professionals respond to problems before they become catastrophic.
This may not seems like it belongs in the security category, but the disconnect between security and functionality is part of the problem in many an organization’s IT strategy. What happens when security measures are so restrictive and difficult to navigate that employees can’t do their jobs effectively?
When the secure methods of accessing company resources are too inefficient, employees will often find ways of operating outside of those methods, sometimes even using software and applications from outside of the organization. And what is the result? You guessed it: greater risk of a data breach.
An organization that is functioning smoothly and efficiently, with resources readily available if and when they are needed, has a greater ability to protect itself from cyberattacks. When personnel can do their jobs effectively via workflows that are both secure and easy to use, there is less need for them to incorporate unsecured technology.
Your IT strategy needs to guarantee that data is available whenever it is needed to make urgent decisions, especially in the case of disaster recovery scenarios. Cyberattacks are not the only threats to a business, and the chaos that can ensue when an organization is not prepared for network outages, hardware issues, or even natural disasters can in turn open the company up to cyberattacks.
Applying these principles will look different in each organization. Again, you can’t completely eliminate the risk of attack, but you can mitigate the impact. Implementing an effective IT strategy requires a comprehensive, detailed assessment of your security posture.
Map out your organization and do a deep dive into how your most sensitive resources are accessed. Determine who needs to access what according to employee role, i.e., make sure that only those resources necessary to each specific role are available to those employees. Furthermore, make sure that privileges on each resource can be restricted where possible so that especially sensitive data sets can be accessed by qualified personnel.
Implement strong authentication measures to verify each human and machine identity. Record each action taken on a sensitive asset, even when performed by authorized users, to enable effective audits. These records can also help you identify potential improvements and iterate on your cybersecurity posture.
And because we don’t live in a perfect world where we can get everything we want, which tradeoffs are acceptable? If the potential revenue from a new partnership opens up potential gaps in your security, does the reward outweigh the risk?
Let’s not forget that IT needs are business needs and vice versa. What does your organization value the most? What are your business goals, and how can your IT strategy support the bottom line while also protecting your company from threats both inside and outside the organization? IT security has to be seen as a driver of company progress rather than a barrier.
At Vudu, we are technology wizards who want to bring IT magic to your business and achieve supernatural results. Are you a company that wants to improve the cybersecurity posture of your IT strategy with an experienced managed IT provider? Tell us more about your goals.