You've got cutting-edge cybersecurity tools, a rock star IT team, modern security measures, top-flight cybersecurity training, and your entire company is on the lookout to prevent cybersecurity incidents.
You're protected against cyber threats... right?
Well, not necessarily.
First and foremost, kudos for understanding the importance of cybersecurity today and making cybersecurity a priority—you're on the right path to securing your business.
But even with the perfect mix of people, processes, and technology, there's something else you should be doing to determine if you're truly ready for a cyber attack: testing your company's cybersecurity posture.
Testing will help you measure how impactful your cybersecurity strategy is at protecting your company and your sensitive data from cyber criminals and emerging cyber threats.
One of the most important aspects of an overall cybersecurity strategy is keeping up with testing and other forms of assessments to ensure that your company's cybersecurity posture is effective. The fact of the matter is that cybersecurity risk changes every day. Companies are at risk of attack on multiple fronts—malware, phishing scams, ransomware attacks, unpatched vulnerabilities—the list goes on.
If you want to avoid costly cybersecurity incidents, it's critical that you test regularly to see that your cybersecurity strategies are working properly.
Why it's important to test your cybersecurity strategy?
Testing your cybersecurity strategy gives you an accurate picture of how impactful your cybersecurity measures are at protecting your business.
Companies should perform cybersecurity testing on a regular basis to keep up with the changes in cyber threats and ensure that your cybersecurity strategy is optimal. However, many companies often neglect this important step—and it could cost them dearly.
Here are six reasons why you should perform regular tests to make sure your company's cybersecurity strategy is effective:
- Identify gaps and loopholes in your cybersecurity defenses that cyber criminals can exploit.
- Discover unnecessary or redundant security measures that may be hampering your company's productivity and limiting its bottom line.
- Evaluate how well—or not so well—your cybersecurity strategy is working, given the current threat landscape.
- Assess where you should be investing more money and resources in cybersecurity initiatives to reduce your company's risk of cyber attacks.
- Stay in compliance with industry regulations like PCI, GDPR, HIPAA, and your Cyber Liability Insurance policy.
- Gain the peace of mind that comes from knowing your company is doing everything it can to prevent cyber attacks.
By testing your company's preparedness for a cyber attack, you can quickly identify gaps in your cybersecurity strategy before they become severe and are exploited by cyber criminals. Plus, by gaining visibility into where your cybersecurity strategy is strong and where there are weaknesses, you know how to address vulnerabilities and improve your security posture.
The goal is to be proactive, and not reactive to cyber attacks.
How to test your cybersecurity strategy?
There are four categories of security tests we will discuss in this article: cybersecurity risk assessments, penetration tests, cybersecurity audits, and dark web scans.
Each option is designed to help you test different areas within your cybersecurity strategy so that you can improve your security posture. By understanding which areas need improvement, you can take the necessary steps to keep cyber criminals at bay.
Cybersecurity Risk Assessment
A cybersecurity risk assessment helps measure your company's cybersecurity readiness and maturity so you know how likely it is for cyber criminals to attack and what kinds of losses you could face.
It's the starting point for all cybersecurity testing, and helps companies prioritize where to focus their cybersecurity initiatives. Typically, cybersecurity risk assessments are conducted by an outside party that specializes in cybersecurity to identify potential security risks and recommend the best defenses.
What is involved with a cybersecurity risk assessment?
A cybersecurity risk assessment consists of a thorough examination of your company's cybersecurity strategy to discover vulnerabilities and understand how they could be exploited by cyber criminals.
There are three main components of a cybersecurity risk assessment:
- Identify cyber threats facing your company—including active threats, vulnerabilities, potential attacks or intrusions.
- Prioritize the most significant risks facing your company based on likelihood and impact, so that you know where to focus your cybersecurity resources.
- Identify actionable steps to improve your company's cybersecurity strategy continuously over time.
What are the benefits of a cybersecurity risk assessment?
By running a cybersecurity risk assessment, you can get an up-to-date picture of where your company's cybersecurity stands. You'll also know what kinds of threats your business faces on a daily basis and how likely they are to impact your bottom line.
With the information from a cybersecurity risk assessment in hand, you can take the necessary steps to improve your cybersecurity strategy and prevent cyber criminals from damaging your company's reputation.
What should you look for during a cybersecurity risk assessment?
The goal of a cybersecurity risk assessment is to help companies understand their security strengths, weaknesses, and potential concerns so that they can make changes as quickly as possible. Every company is unique which is why it's essential to work with an outside cybersecurity company that knows your industry.
Finally, keep an eye out for cost during the risk assessment process. It might be tempting to go with the cheapest option, but you'll want to focus on finding someone who can give you comprehensive results quickly rather than trying to save a few bucks.
A penetration test involves hiring ethical hackers or a third-party cybersecurity firm to attack your company's system and networks, in the form of a simulated cyber attack, in order to find weaknesses that cyber criminals could take advantage of.
The ethical hackers will use the same tools and techniques used by black hat hackers to break into your company's network. This lets you know how quickly cyber criminals can access your systems and how much damage they can do once inside. They will also work together with your company to fix any vulnerabilities before cyber criminals can target them.
What is involved with a penetration test?
A penetration test is conducted by an outside cybersecurity company with extensive experience in penetration testing. The goal of the test is to recreate real-life cyber threats and vulnerabilities by simulating attacks against your company's networks, applications, software and systems, in an attempt to access valuable information such as credit card numbers, customer records, or other personal details.
They'll use advanced techniques like social engineering (tricking people into giving up their login information), cyber warfare (using specialized software to hack into your company's system), and security exploits (systematic weaknesses within your company's systems).
What are the benefits of penetration tests?
By performing a penetration test, you'll be able to stop cyber criminals in their tracks before they can do any damage or steal sensitive data. During the process, an expert penetration tester will walk your company's employees through the hacking methods step by step to show them what cybersecurity threats look like and how they can avoid them.
Penetration testing is designed to show you exactly how cyber criminals would attack your company so that you can fix any vulnerabilities before they become costly problems. This includes finding passwords that haven't been changed in years, software that isn't up-to-date with the latest security patches, weak encryption, and outdated security systems.
Pen testing helps you understand how vulnerable you are to malicious forces trying to break in so you can take the appropriate steps to strengthen your cybersecurity defenses.
Cybersecurity audits help assess the effectiveness of a company's cybersecurity policies, procedures, and controls to identify vulnerabilities. Cybersecurity audits provide a thorough evaluation of all information systems, including networks and hardware. They also look at how your employees access and use data and applications.
By examining all aspects of your company's cybersecurity strategy, the audit will identify any issues that could lead to cyber attacks or data breaches so you can take the necessary precautions before it's too late.
What is involved with cybersecurity audits?
A cybersecurity audit typically includes examining documentation related to an organization's cybersecurity policies, procedures, and controls so that you can see if they're working correctly. It also involves interviewing employees and IT staff to understand how they interact with data, which cybersecurity policies are in place, and what their responsibilities are.
They also review your company's hardware, software, systems, networks, vendors, cloud services providers, cybersecurity policies & procedures, security gateways/appliances, information security breaches & incidents, and data security.
Finally, it includes testing to see how effective your policies are in reality, especially in terms of protecting against cyber attacks.
The audit concludes with the cybersecurity auditors giving their opinion on your company's current risk level and suggesting ways to improve your cybersecurity posture based on the results of their evaluation.
What are the benefits of cybersecurity audits?
Cybersecurity audits are beneficial if they're done by an experienced professional. They provide detailed information about the state of your current cybersecurity measures and tell you what you need to change or improve. They differ from penetration testing in that they don't actively go after your systems. Instead, they simply provide you with a comprehensive look at your cybersecurity strategy to determine what needs the most improvement.
The good news is that you can work with cybersecurity auditors to improve your overall cybersecurity posture and lower your risk of cyber attacks by implementing the recommendations from their report.
Dark Web Scans
A dark web scan is an automated process that looks for your company's sensitive data on the dark web. It can track down stolen information like passwords, usernames, and social security numbers—anything that cyber criminals could use to hack into your business.
A dark web scan is commonly used to see if your company's information has already been exposed to cyber criminals. This involves searching for domain names related to your business that are asking for personal information like financial data and account credentials.
What is involved with dark web scans?
Dark web scans are usually done by cybersecurity experts who use special tools to search the dark web where cyber criminals buy and sell data, including email addresses and passwords that they've stolen from other companies. The scans can include looking at both internal and external websites as well as cloud infrastructure, endpoints, mobile devices, file servers, and other potential points of access.
What are the benefits of dark web scans?
Dark web scanning is beneficial because you can see how exposed your business information really is to cyber criminals. If your company's data has been exposed, it will appear on dark web search results. Any exposed sensitive data could lead to a cyber attack. Sensitive information can end up on dark websites when cyber attacks occur, but it also gets posted when employees lose mobile devices or laptops, and when large amounts of personally identifiable information are leaked in a data breach.
According to a Data Breach Investigations Report by Verizon, the most significant cause of breaches is external attackers gaining access through stolen or weak credentials. Dark web scans are able to identify compromised information so you can correct it before a cyber attack occurs and ongoing Dark Web scanning will help reduce the risk of a data breach happening in the future.
How often to test your cybersecurity strategy?
Testing your cybersecurity strategy should be an ongoing process—at the very least annually, but quarterly is preferred—so you can ensure that there are no vulnerabilities and eliminate any issues before cyber criminals can exploit them. Cybersecurity breaches happen in real-time, so it's vital to keep up with the latest methods used by cyber criminals to see if they're targeting your business specifically.
Hackers and cyber criminals continue to develop new attack methods for hacking into businesses, which can lead to breaches that expose sensitive information. If you don't have up-to-date security measures, hackers can gain access to your systems and steal proprietary data or hold your data hostage until you pay a ransom fee. Cyber criminals can also cause damage to your systems and computer networks, which could result in extended downtime that leaves your company unable to function, retrieve data, or serve customers.
The best way to ensure safety for your company is to start testing and run regular security tests with the help of an independent cybersecurity firm with the latest tools and techniques so you can stay proactive and address any security issues before they become bigger problems for your business.