Most of us see the beginning of the year as an opportunity for a fresh start, hence our resolutions to exercise, eat better and read more. It’s also a good time for businesses to reflect on their bad habits and what changes they can make to improve their operations.
With each passing year, network security threats are becoming more frequent and more sophisticated — yet, few organizations make a consistent effort to understand where they might be vulnerable and what they should do about it. Often, organizations that have spent considerable time and resources to craft security policies, create disaster plans and develop network configurations will go months or years without ever testing or revising them in any meaningful way.
Regulatory compliance is also becoming more complex. By some accounts, there are more than 3,000 corporate governance regulations in play today, with perhaps a third of those impacting small to midsize businesses (SMBs). The landscape is changing so fast that many organizations aren’t even aware that they are in violation of some industry or government regulations.
This is why organizations should resolve this year to begin conducting regular security risk assessments.
A security risk assessment is designed to help organizations identify any gaps in their security posture and to make the necessary modifications to close those gaps. In addition to boosting security against cyber threats, regular assessments also demonstrate to auditors that the organization’s security and control processes are in place. In fact, such assessments are required for compliance with many regulations, including the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
Assessments typically involve running internal and external scans on the network to find known weaknesses. When the scans are complete, a detailed report is generated that includes a definition of the found vulnerabilities, how they might be exploited, and how that might affect the organization’s security posture. Using that report, security experts can develop a plan that shows how to remediate the vulnerabilities.
Penetration tests utilize some of the same processes, but go much deeper. These tests simulate attacks and enable security, operations, management and other personnel to view the technology infrastructure from an attacker’s perspective. Penetration testing is used to determine the effectiveness of the technical, operational and physical controls in place in the organization, as well as the organization’s vulnerability to a particular threat.
Finally, a strong security risk assessment should include an audit of all of the network and security devices in the infrastructure. A primary goal is to ensure that devices and operating systems are configured such that no open, unneeded services could be exploited.
Much like our personal New Year’s resolutions, annual security assessments require more than just good intentions. Without a strong commitment to ingrain regular assessments into the operational structure, they can be forgotten as quickly as last year’s diet.
Of course, dedicating the required resources can be difficult — particularly for SMBs. Up-to-date, professional-grade scanning tools may be too much of an investment, not to mention the staff hours required to conduct full assessments and address any issues. It might be a good idea to work with a reputable managed services provider with the necessary tools, expertise and manpower.
The SSD Assurance program delivers those resources. Our team of seasoned professionals can tackle your most complex technology challenges — including annual security assessments and quarterly network perimeter assessments. In addition to identifying and mitigating security risks, we also help you develop and maintain policies based upon industry best practices, and generate regular reports to aid in regulatory compliance.
According to U.S. News, approximately 80 percent of people give up on their New Year’s resolutions by the second week of February. If improved security and compliance is your resolution, we can help you keep it with our Assurance program.