Today’s attackers aren’t pulling any punches when it comes to persecuting our networks. For years, it hasn’t been a matter of “if” but “when” a cyberattack will occur. They look for any weakness, any hole in our defenses.
Now is the time to assess your cybersecurity maturity and develop a phased approach to get to where you want to be over the next couple of years.
What Is Cybersecurity Maturity?
Cybersecurity maturity is your organization’s level of readiness to defend itself and its digital assets against cyberattacks. The more mature your program, the better able you are to mitigate digital threats and keep business running as usual despite cyber threats and challenges. As the threat landscape intensifies and artificial intelligence is unleashed in full force, sophisticated cybersecurity maturity is more than just nice; it’s now necessary.
Cybersecurity maturity can be divided into roughly three levels:
- Foundational: IT/OT and Security Control Processes
- Fundamental: Security Control Capabilities
- Advanced: Security Control Capabilities
The Difference Between IT Maturity and Security Maturity
Some practitioners look at cyber maturity as a subcomponent of IT maturity, while others see it as a discipline requiring its own rules and attention. While it is possible to have a mature IT program without maturing cyber defenses, it is impossible to have a mature cybersecurity program without IT being fully developed as well. Therefore, there is an argument for prioritizing cyber maturity, as it will necessarily include IT maturity in its wake. Done the other way around, there is a chance of security getting left behind.
Investing in point security products doesn’t automatically translate into advancing security maturity. Organizations need to ensure that their security strategy includes integrated solutions along with people and processes to gain actionable insights, which allows the security decision-makers to make decisions on where to focus their resources.
What Is CMMI?
The Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) is a metric used to measure and portray business maturity and performance to executives. Created by the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA), it is cited as a “proven set of global best practices that drives business performance through building and benchmarking key capabilities” by the CMMI Institute.
The CMMI breaks down into five levels:
- Initial: Reactive, with poorly written procedures and uncertain outcomes
- Managed: Reactive, but more organized in security related projects
- Defined: Proactive and tailored to clearly defined standards
- Quantitatively Managed: Proactive and clearly defined and controlled; includes leadership, budget, and executive support
- Optimizing: A mature, quantitative, and qualitative program
CMMI models help to give non-technical executives a top-down view of their organization’s information security program (ISP). This typically results in more financial buy-in and increased C-suite support. Here is an example of a CMMI model outline that was so well received, the CEO presented it to the board:
The Cybersecurity Maturity Model
There are several key competencies to be considered in an effective cybersecurity maturity model. This is based on Forrester’s recently updated Information Security Maturity Model, which was inspired by a thorough review of the latest SANS, ISO, ITIL, and NIST standards. It fits 20 essential security maturity activities into the following four competencies:
- Oversight: How agile is the organization at meeting business needs while responding to security threats? This is demonstrated with policies, controls, the handling of audits, risk management, and third-party governance.
- Technology: How well can the organization protect data across the enterprise? They must ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data wherever it resides.
- Process: What are the day-to-day activities that mitigate risk? This requires optimized processes that identify, classify, and handle assets, as well as maintain the same standards for third parties.
- People: Do employees uphold and support these cyber security maturity initiatives? Define key roles and communicate expectations across the organization.
Zero-ing in on the technology aspect, key to security maturity is a well-honed data loss prevention (DLP) program. Research from Forrester outlines how professionals can assess current measures and ensure that long-term DLP strategies are in place. The report concludes that data classification is one of the 5 key elements of DLP success, and that DLP is a key data security component that belongs as part of the company’s broader risk and control strategy.
Mature security technologies are an integral requirement of any cybersecurity maturity model and should be prioritized as foundational elements.
How to Improve Your Cybersecurity Maturity
Now that the goals and frameworks are set, what are the practical ways in which a company moves forward? Here are five essential considerations when improving cybersecurity maturity:
Technology doesn’t automatically mean maturity
Layered solutions can still leave security gaps if not planned effectively. Companies must adopt a risk-based approach and prioritize the tools that will address the most critical issues.
Endpoint protection is a priority
With the full force of AI leveled at our endpoints, it’s no wonder that an IDC survey revealed that 60% of global organizations consider endpoint protection a “high priority”.
Automate, automate, automate
No security team is optimally effective against today’s advanced and relentless attacks if they insist on doing things manually. A mature cybersecurity program automates wherever possible.
Adopt a cybersecurity maturity model
No matter which one you choose, adopting a solid framework will put your organization on track to reaching cybersecurity maturity. Just checking compliance checkboxes and patching vulnerabilities will not do it.
Cybersecurity Maturity Assessment
To begin, companies must define their starting point. A cybersecurity maturity assessment is a great place to start.
This type of test will provide an overview of your current security posture; on-premises, in the cloud, and remotely. It is important to establish who has responsibility for securing certain assets, especially in the cloud, and then run down the technologies, people, and processes in place to achieve that goal. If there is anything lacking in any of those areas, a cybersecurity maturity assessment will identify the gaps and compare your progress to what is expected in a cybersecurity maturity model.
Types of Security Maturity
Overall security maturity can be attained in a number of different ways, depending on the organization’s preference and starting point. Here are a few:
Zero Trust Maturity
This approach is about mindset. It revolves around taking nothing for granted and denying trust to anyone within or without the network, unless authorization, authentication, and validation are assured first. The mantra is, “guilty unless proven innocent”, and every policy, deployment, and procedure reflects that. Said Joseph Carson, chief security scientist and advisory CISO at ThycoticCentrify, “Think of zero trust as a way to operate the business in a secure way. It’s about how you actually practice security.” Since the goal of zero trust maturity is so comprehensive, organizations embarking on this path need to remember that success is measured in increments, and in improvement.
Endpoint Security Maturity
The digital revolution has seen endpoints expand from fax machines and mobile devices to include virtual machines, containers, IoT appliances, and more. The Gartner model showcases an effective endpoint protection model that emphasizes measurability and understandability but lacks granular grading. The SANS model, on the other hand, provides incremental ways to track progress. Whichever model you choose, keep in mind that endpoint security maturity depends equally on capable endpoint security technology and user awareness.
Network Security Maturity
This strategy relies on prioritizing the safety of the network through network segmentation, firewalls, and access policies. At the first level, traffic travels with minimal restrictions at the edge of your network, reflecting a level of inherent trust and allowing outside threats to move laterally through your network. The second maturity stage employs defenses at the edge like firewalls, but not internally, leaving sensitive assets still exposed to malicious outsiders who find their way in. The most advanced level uses strict access policies and network segmentation to restrict access and limit exposure and risk should something fall through.
The path an organization takes is less important than the final destination: cybersecurity maturity. It is important to remember that this end-goal is a journey as much as an ultimate destination. As long as cybercriminals continue to evolve their tactics, there will always be a need to improve ours.
Where is your organization on the cybersecurity maturity scale?
Fortra can help you find out. And we can help you get to the next level. We’ll meet you where you are today and give you the tools you need to meet your security outcomes tomorrow.