We can all agree that cyber attacks are inevitable. The next step for cybersecurity professionals is reaching a consensus on the best way to prepare for unknown threats lurking on the horizon.
In an era when breaches are more expensive than ever before, it can be tempting to open the corporate wallet to buy new security products every time a new threat emerges. Then, when the latest risk is mitigated and a fresh problem comes along, another solution is purchased.
Dealing with risk by tackling each “point in time” threat as they arise is a sub-optimal strategy. Instead of reacting to threats, it is better for organizations to build proactive strategies which anticipate risk, rather than simply responding to it.
Today, security teams can move beyond just detecting threats towards predicting the likelihood of a breach. In the past, this was difficult because there were few reliable methods and a lack of contextual data to determine organization-wide risk. Without accurate information, security teams and C-suite executives were left to make decisions without clear visibility of whether they corresponded to the short and long-term threat landscape.
Now, it is possible to look into the future and make contextual risk forecasts using cyber risk quantification. By predicting the likelihood of a breach, organizations can move beyond the whack-a-mole strategy of squashing problems as they arise and start building for tomorrow by following a strategy based on meaningful, data-driven insights. It is time to start looking forward.
Predict and protect
Organizations are now swimming in data generated by a wide range of sources ranging from cybersecurity defense systems to external threat intelligence services. Inside this information is the story of what is happening right now. Yet the vast amount of data organizations generate can also be used to build data-science backed predictions about breaches before they happen.
When data is collated and analyzed correctly, it can be used to provide a real-time risk score which is useful for improving the efficiency of security teams by helping them prioritize risk. It also enables simpler communication the risk to all stakeholders. They can also use the score to influence decision makers and drive meaningful conversations along with targeted investments to mitigate threats.
Communicating risk is the first proactive step towards mitigating it. There is a crucial step beyond scoring. Certain cyber risk quantification platforms that leverage data-science principles to run Monte Carlo simulations can transform a risk score into a financial impact that shows how much a breach will cost an organization. This is a powerful tool for security professionals that allows them to communicate in a language everyone understands: dollars and cents. Once the correct risk scoring process is in place, security teams can assess threats in real time and then move towards a predictive model that anticipates incidents before they occur.
The rewards of cyber risk quantification
To move towards a predictive cybersecurity model, there are five risk vectors that every organization must be aware of.
The first risk vector is people. Employees are involved in most cybersecurity incidents – a fact borne out in breach after breach.
The next one is policy. Organizations must be able to understand the effectiveness of their security governance by analyzing and scoring their alignment with industry best practices and compliance frameworks.
Technology and cybersecurity products must be analyzed as separate vectors, offering a complete picture of risk across the stack and the performance of each security solution.
The inside-out view of a business’ technology stack should give a bird’s eye view of the risk posture of on-prem and on-cloud technology assets. Cloud assets (AWS, Azure, GCP), SaaS applications, databases, servers, endpoints, network security nodes, and web/ mobile/ thick-client applications should all be monitored in real-time.
In addition, third parties also need to be assessed to discover how they contribute to an organization’s risk profile. An outside-in view lends an organization the capability to automate non-intrusive assessments based on its primary domain names.
Analysis of all five risk vectors can reveal weak links in defenses in a holistic and granular manner, by highlighting vulnerabilities affecting an entire enterprise, as well as issues relating to each risk vector, right down to the level of departments or individuals. Again, this information shows the weaknesses affecting an organization in the short-term yet can also indicate the likelihood of a future breach in the long term.
Once data concerning threat levels is obtained, the next step is assigning it a score and dollar value. This allows security teams to communicate with stakeholders using an enterprise-wide, objective, unified, and real-time cyber risk score based on analysis of the organization’s business and technical aspects.
Back up the future
CISOs around the world know that it can be difficult to speak to the board and persuade them to spend more money to mitigate potential damage. If an attack has already taken place, few executives will withhold cash to pay for the clean-up. It is much harder to convince decision makers to fund pre-emptive work to reduce the risk of a breach in future if the threat is nebulous and poorly defined. For instance, we know that ransomware is likely to be a continuing problem. Simply telling the board about this issue will not necessarily prove persuasive. But if security professionals can say that the threat level has reached the highest on the scale – and the potential cost and damage of a breach has reached a new peak, executives are more likely to be moved into action.
Primed with information about the likelihood and potential dollar cost of a breach, leaders can make informed cybersecurity investment decisions to accept, mitigate, or transfer the risk. This could include the provision of training to departments in which the human risk level is too high; patching or upgrading systems to reduce risk; and ensuring cyber insurance coverage is adequate to cover the potential damage a breach would cause.
Danger is not going away. The threats will keep coming. We cannot alter these facts. Yet by changing their approach to managing, communicating, and predicting risk, security professionals can prepare for the future before it happens. Once the predictive capabilities of cyber risk quantification are in place across the industry, we will literally never look back.