Five Steps to Improve Cybersecurity

According to the US Department of Defense, these 5 steps to improve cybersecurity can be used by any company, specially if they need to comply with government regulations and achieve compliance certification. Cyber security is a crucial part of any organization that manages critical systems and sensitive information. In order to avoid data breaches and maintain adequate levels of security across all critical systems and data, organizations must apply best security practices, standards and protocols in their system management. Cyber threats could lead to many undesired consequences including the loss of data, revenue, and brand trust.

Five Steps to Improve Cybersecurity

Five Steps to Improve Security

Project Spectrum which provides educational content to help organizations stay abreast of Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) requirements and meet certification challenges has published five steps to improve cybersecurity for the Defense Industrial Base (DIB) community and others who may similarly benefit from these cybersecurity tips.

Educate Users

Recognizing cyber threats is the initial step in preventing cyber-attacks from successfully harming your organization. Organizations must educate their users about the importance of setting strong passwords, recognizing malicious links, and installing the latest security patches. There are many online resources to help organizations create user awareness and training programs including the Project Spectrum website which is part of the United States Office of the Under Secretary of Defense. They have put together online resources that companies can use to educate their users. Another source is the identity and access management blog maintained by Identity Management Institute.

Implement Access Controls

Companies should implement and maintain an access control policy to limit access to the organization’s critical assets. One of the mistakes that organizations often make is to allow sharing of user IDs for accessing systems and data. This error eliminates access tracking and accountability. When unique login credentials are issued, organizations can easily track who specifically has accessed certain resources and when. This targeted monitoring and tracking with unique IDs assigned to specific users would be impossible when user IDs are shared.

After giving everyone a unique system login, it’s critical to limit what they’re able to access and do. People should only be able to access necessary parts of a system and perform certain transactions. Otherwise, not only the excessive access can be abused or accidently lead to unauthorized transactions, in case their credentials are compromised, all authorized access associated with the user can be detrimental when they fall in the wrong hands. A compromised login by insiders and outsiders are equally dangerous in our interconnected world. Limiting what people can access and do will minimize the potential threats to your organization.

Managing the identity and access of users can be a daunting task. This is why having a dedicated team of certified identity and access management professionals as well as automated IAM systems and streamlined processes can eliminated most of the risks and make the entire process more efficient and effective.

Also, periodically reviewing access list to identify and remove dormant and orphan accounts is very important to reduce the risks of unauthorized access which can not be attributed to any particular person. For temps and contractors who are engaged for a limited time, temporary accounts which automatically expire is a great option to eliminate the need to track and remove accounts as these accounts are automatically disabled upon expiration which can be re-activated at any time and reused in future projects.

Authenticate Users

Implementing multi-factor authentication in layered security scheme which goes beyond just a simple password entry is a great step to improve cybersecurity. The simplest method commonly used is 2-factor authentication whereby users must enter their password as well as a one-time code they access through SMS text message or an authenticator app.  

Monitor Physical Space

In addition to logically securing computer devices, facilities and physical devices must be controlled to ensure adequate security. Following the recent work from home directive of many companies, organizations lost control of physical security of devices that are used to access their digital assets. Prior to the pandemic, accessing digital resources was primarily possible from business-owned devices as well as inside the organization and network, and visitors had to be escorted with ID badges to access facilities and hardware, however, this changed as most users are using personal devices to remotely access digital assets without going through a VPN and dedicated communication channel.

With the gradual and selective return of staff to the offices and to control physical security, installing an access control system and a video monitoring system may prove to be efficient for remotely managing physical security. The same concept can be applied to authenticate users who are accessing systems remotely with personal devices. A recorded event can also be helpful in incident investigation cases.  

Update Security Precautions

Many experts including Berkeley Information Security Office recommend updating all your security programs periodically. Hackers learn how to exploit known flaws in previous versions of software. Normally, developers patch exploits as they’re found, however, automating security software updates would help prevent attacks using known vulnerabilities.

While automated software update is not fully reliable, checking for updates manually should minimize any chances of missing out on new security patches and updates including your firewalls to protect outgoing connections just as much as the incoming ones to prevent communication hijacking.

Upgrading Your Cyber Security

Cyber security is an essential part of any organization. Without it, you’d be susceptible to various threats and attacks. Cyber attacks could cause you to lose revenue, customers, and productive time. You could also end up with a large amount of compromised customer information leading to lawsuits, fines, and penalties. Therefore, it’s important to follow these five steps to improve cybersecurity. They’re based on recommendations made by industry experts and government bodies. As long as you follow these 5 simple steps, you should be able to reduce your cybersecurity risks by a great margin. Always re-assess your cybersecurity posture to make sure you don’t leave any security gap unaddressed as a single security gap can leave your entire organization vulnerable and tied up with investigations and unproductive tasks.

Identity and access management certifications