Ten Essential Cybersecurity Controls


Ten Essential Cybersecurity Controls- Because hackers, backed by technology breakthroughs, are continuously inventing new ways of executing assaults, cybersecurity measures are vital. As a result, businesses must put in place the best protections to improve their security postures. Adhering to international standards, complying with various regulations, and employing defense-in-depth methods are all part of developing a comprehensive approach.

Countermeasures that firms use to detect, prevent, lessen, or neutralise security hazards are known as cybersecurity controls. They are the safeguards that a company takes to protect its computer systems and networks from cyber-threats. The controls are always evolving to keep up with the changing cyber environment. As a result, every company must be aware of the appropriate policies for handling their security risks. However, in order to achieve effectiveness, it is critical to first grasp the necessary controls.

Businesses can use the following guideline to evaluate appropriate cybersecurity controls

Assess the size of the organisation

First and foremost, the organization’s size should be evaluated. Details such as interconnected systems, employee numbers, network size, and so on should all be examined. When it comes to financial planning, determining the size of a business can help with decision-making. The assessment will also aid in the identification of controls that need be implemented to address current issues.

Define the IT infrastructure’s scope

A corporation must determine which IT components are subject to cybersecurity restrictions. Adequate controls are implemented when all IT aspects are considered, regardless of whether they are contracted or owned. IT infrastructure includes, among other things, applications, information systems, network devices, servers, and cloud applications. An assessment would be adequate to lead a corporation through the process of listing all assets that are subject to cybersecurity rules.

Determine the security levels of IT assets and information systems

Companies must identify information systems and IT components that require higher security standards. They should also be able to give monetary value to different sorts of data and assets. Personal identifying information about employees or customers, for example, may require higher levels of security. Furthermore, sensitive data, such as intellectual property or competition plans, may require suitable protection to avoid attempted breaches. The integrity, availability, and confidentiality of essential IT systems and information should all be considered when considering security levels.

Organizations can allocate cybersecurity controls according to need using a scale of very low, low, medium, and high, with high signifying assets requiring the greatest security requirements. This not only ensures efficiency in dealing with security threats, but it also aids budgeting. More funds can be directed to sectors that require tighter supervision.

Confirm cybersecurity investments

Security managers and experts should confirm cybersecurity investment levels before planning for the procurement and deployment of cybersecurity controls. This is done by evaluating IT security and data protection spending. A corporation should also consider financials when it comes to intangible controls like employee training.

Essential Security controls

Organizations will learn about the various measures used to mitigate cybersecurity risks and prevent data breaches in this section. The regulations also focus on responding to attempted cybercrimes in order to prevent them from happening again. Furthermore, every organisation should be prepared for a cyber-attack at any time these days. As a result, the controls create systems for recognising, responding to, and recovering from cyber-attacks.

Maintain a comprehensive incidence response plan

Hacking and penetration techniques have reached new heights. Cyber attackers can perform stealth cybercrimes using current technology such as artificial intelligence. As a result, organisations should constantly expect intrusion attempts at any time. As a result, every company should have a plan in place for dealing with cyber incidents, which should be updated on a regular basis. Measures for recuperating from the attack should also be included in the plan.

As a result, firms should consider developing security information management systems to actively monitor, detect, and respond to security risks. Security teams can maintain track of all actions at the system or network level with such systems. Furthermore, security teams should be assigned duties by corporations. Every individual should be aware of their responsibility in responding to cyber-attacks.

Regardless, a corporation should appoint someone who are legally obligated to notify any attempted breaches. In addition to protecting the company from legal action for neglecting to disclose an occurrence, reporting allows forensic experts to establish a robust incident response plan.

Additionally, firms that lack the capacity to manage cybersecurity incidents should have a documented plan in place for enlisting the help of outside experts. This should include individuals dispatched to assist with the reaction as well as resource allocation plans. All of this is done to guarantee that the organisation and outsourced assistance run smoothly.

Patch management lifecycle

Every firm nowadays, as is the case, relies on technology to achieve its goals. Some businesses are so reliant on IT support that losing it would result in significant losses. As a result, businesses use a variety of technology from different providers, giving criminals more entry points. Furthermore, some devices, whether hardware or software, may have security flaws. Hackers typically use vulnerabilities to gain access to a system and launch attacks. As a result, an organisation must follow a rigid patch management lifecycle.

Patch updates for firmware and software are routinely released by most suppliers. This is done to resolve security flaws and known or unknown vulnerabilities. As a result, organisations should guarantee that new patch updates are installed as soon as they are released by suppliers. Zero-day attacks, in which hackers exploit vulnerabilities before suppliers are aware of them, are avoided via timely installation.

The patch management method is determined by the extent of an organization’s IT infrastructure. Keeping track of vulnerabilities in devices dispersed over the network can be challenging and expensive for large enterprises. To combat this, such businesses can implement risk-reduction strategies. Implementing an automated patch management system, for example, can detect vulnerabilities as soon as they appear, as well as available patches to mitigate them. Smaller businesses, on the other hand, should have all software items updated automatically. Updates are installed automatically as soon as they become available.

Apply antivirus solutions

Antivirus software includes one of the most widely used security features. Antivirus software is pre-installed on almost all operating systems. Antivirus software such as Malwarebytes, McAfee, or Windows Security Center are capable of identifying and removing malware threats. Cyber criminals utilise several malware families, such as spyware, ransomware, worms, and trojan horses, to mislead people into installing them. Malware is a term used to describe a group of programmes that are designed to harm a computer system.

When a business has an effective antivirus software, hackers are unable to carry out assaults using malicious malware. Antivirus software regularly scans a computer for malicious software and removes it before it can cause any harm. However, a company must apply all updates to guarantee that the security software it uses has an up-to-date threat database. Every day, cybercriminals build new malware, and antivirus software’s capacity to defend a machine is determined by the frequency with which updates are released.

Implement perimeter defence

Perimeter defences enable an organisation to safeguard its networks from internet-based threats. Firewalls are one of the most used network security mechanisms. Firewalls detect malicious traffic entering a network and prevent it from proceeding. Firewalls also protect a network from external incursions that aim to compromise network security. Businesses should install dedicated firewalls in the boundaries linking a corporate network to the internet to combat online threats. Firewalls can be made up of both hardware and software components.

Furthermore, enterprises should ensure that firewalls that come pre-installed in operating systems are activated and configured correctly. Applications that are allowed to access corporate networks as well as those that are restricted to private networks exclusively are included in the configuration metrics. Alternatively, if the existing firewall appears insufficient in comparison to the security environment, a company can choose to implement alternative firewalls.

Regardless, the Domain Name System (DNS) allows organisations to block harmful online domains from connecting to their networks. All devices connected to the business network are secure thanks to DNS solutions. Furthermore, DNS firewall solutions assist in content screening and allow network administrators to restrict access to harmful websites.

Secure connectivity is another important perimeter protection. For all online services involved, a corporation should develop reliable connectivity methods. Because most organisations now allow employees to work from home, they should provide them with virtual private networks (VPNs). VPNs encrypt all internet user activity, making sniffing and eavesdropping assaults impossible. Furthermore, most home networks lack the requisite security, and VPNs protect a business from attacks that take advantage of vulnerable networks.

Separating public Wi-Fi from the corporate network is also part of perimeter defences. Employees and customers are frequently given access to public Wi-Fi, which is in most cases unsecure. Because it is separate from the business network, malevolent individuals cannot utilise it to jeopardise the security of the corporate network. Companies must protect proprietary information on corporate networks from unwanted access.

Finally, firms utilising point-of-sale systems should adhere to the PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) criteria. The guidelines prescribe adequate measures for safeguarding a customer’s credit card information. Furthermore, the standards enable a company to protect PoS terminals and online financial systems from hackers. A corporation can disconnect PoS terminals from public and corporate networks, among other controls.

Secure mobile device

Organizations can improve work procedures and productivity by using the Internet of Things and mobile devices. As a result, several organisations have adopted them on a broad basis. Companies either own or have policies in place that allow employees to use their own devices. In either case, a corporation must implement suitable safeguards for company data handled by or conveyed over the devices.

Isolating critical company data from personal data is an important control. Employee work accounts, such as emails and customised applications, must be provided by the company. Other methods, such as using secure folders or locker functions, can help employees protect company data and achieve information security. Furthermore, a corporation must implement isolation in a way that balances both security and business demands. For example, ensuring that personnel communicate and share information over encrypted networks can accomplish both goals.

Additionally, enterprises adopt mobile devices because simple programmes capable of executing complicated tasks are readily available. However, each application comes with its own set of risks. This broadens the risk and threat spectrum. Employees must install applications from trusted retailers as a vital control for reducing hazards. By using reverse engineering techniques to download software from third-party sites, users may end up installing malware-infected apps.

Additionally, businesses with complex IT processes should consider deploying solutions that allow for better mobile device management. An Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) system is an example. Companies can benefit from expanded business functionalities while also centrally managing mobile devices with EMMS. Although the capabilities of EMM systems vary, they all provide functions for managing, auditing, and enabling the use of mobile devices. The capacity to remotely delete the data of stolen or hacked devices could be one of the capabilities.

Furthermore, cyber actors may use the mobile connectivity of corporate devices to launch attacks. As a result, businesses should enact regulations that require users to turn off automatic connectivity. Hackers utilise open networks to entice unwary people into connecting and then install malware on their devices. Businesses should also limit the use of near-field communication (NFC) protocols like Bluetooth. Employees should avoid utilising such networks to share confidential information since cybercriminals might quickly exploit them.

Emphasize employee awareness and training

Organizations can be protected from disastrous assaults by educating staff on cybersecurity principles. Because attackers employ system user ignorance to carry out assaults, it is one of the most important controls. Phishing assaults, for example, rely heavily on a user’s incapacity to recognise phishing emails. Because practical skills contribute to improved security posture, employee security training is the first line of defence. Businesses can focus on easily doable strategies like the ones stated below to build an effective training and awareness programme:

  • Approved software products from reputable providers are purchased and used.
  • Policies for effective password management, including secure password creation, storage, and sharing
  • The ability to recognise fraudulent links and attachments in spear-phishing emails
  • When connected to the workplace network, proper internet usage, including a list of websites to avoid
  • Angler phishing attempts can be prevented by using social networking platforms in a secure manner.
  • Security setups that are appropriate

Default configurations are used by IT vendors when creating products. All software and hardware devices come with default settings, which may or may not provide the appropriate levels of security. Default setups pose a significant security risk to businesses because they lack sufficient security measures to avoid assaults. Software developers, for example, frequently use the same default password across all of their products. Attackers can simply estimate default configurations, making hacktivist and intrusive attempts even easier.

As a result, businesses should ensure that their default setups are replaced with more secure ones. Because different firms have varied security requirements, the settings that have been established may not meet all of the security requirements. Organizations must then disable administrator passwords and use strong, difficult-to-guess passwords to safeguard all apps. Simultaneously, a company should check device settings to remove any defaults that appear to be insecure. An organisation must ensure that all necessary security measures are enabled while superfluous features are disabled.

Implement power user authentications

Insider threats are one of the most common causes of security incidents in businesses. These are hazards that arise as a result of personnel assisting hackers in achieving their malevolent goals or users committing cybercrime for personal gain. Malicious users may steal other users’ login credentials and use their accounts to promote cybercrime in order to achieve these goals. This is done in order to hide their tracks and blame the crimes on unwitting staff. Implementing robust user authentications is an effective control for preventing insider risks.

The techniques for checking the legitimacy of a system user are known as user authentications. A user must give valid information, including usernames and passwords, in order to be authorised. Implementing two-factor or multi-factor authentication is a common approach to provide strong user authentication. Users must submit a mix of accurate authenticators in order to use the techniques. A username, password, and physical token or code must all be included in the combination. Because a user must supply a token or code generated automatically once a user commences a login session, multi-factor authentication adds an extra layer of protection.

Furthermore, employing strong passwords to secure vital systems is an effective user authentication approach. To prevent passwords from slipping into the wrong hands, system administrators should change them on a regular basis. While some security procedures require administrators to update passwords at the first evidence of a security breach, sticking to a regular password management plan is more effective. Policies for password management should consider issues such as password length and reusability.

Observe strict access controls

The security provided by user authentication is enhanced by access control techniques. Access control is distinct in that it refers to the methods that businesses employ to grant authenticated users access to IT resources. Access controls’ principal job is to determine which users have access to which resources and at what levels. Different control measures exist, and it is up to the organisation to choose the one that best fulfils its security needs.

Role-based access control is one example. Companies can use the method to grant access to users based on their jobs. In this scenario, a marketing user is unable to access resources that are only available to financial users. Because it is easy to identify events that lead to a security incident with role-based access, network administrators may trace user activity.

An organisation can also use least-privilege access control to protect critical resources from unwanted access. Users with least-privilege access have access to the resources they need to complete certain jobs. A CEO, for example, has more access than a department manager. It not only prevents unwanted access, but it also has additional advantages including reducing resource waste.

Furthermore, restricting administrator account access improves security by prohibiting unauthorised users from making modifications to the system. Administrative accounts should be limited to system administrators exclusively. Furthermore, the accounts should be used solely for administrative purposes. Employees are less likely to use user-level functions for purposes other than administrative tasks when user-level capabilities are restricted. Businesses could also empower staff with their own accounts and enforce password security alternatives to enhance openness and accountability.

Maintain secure portable devices

Users may transmit data quickly and easily via portable devices such as USB sticks, SD cards, and hard drives. Some firms may utilise this type of media to create and store backups. However, due to the small physical size of the portable devices, unauthorised individuals can steal and access confidential information. They pose major security risks in terms of data breaches and the preservation of data integrity or availability.

Although more secure choices, such as cloud technology, provide more secure storage, it is nearly difficult to limit their use. As a result, businesses should adopt portable devices with strong encryption. In the event that the media comes into unauthorised hands, the encryptions protect the data stored on it. Asset control measures that guide the usage and disposal of such devices should be included in organisations.

Encrypt and back up data in a secure manner

Data backups and encryption are effective safeguards for ensuring data availability and integrity. Despite the greatest security policies in place, cyberattacks continue to occur, resulting in data theft or corruption. Backing up data on a daily basis avoids such disasters and maintains data availability for business continuity.

Malicious persons, on the other hand, continue to try to gain access to backup data. Companies can protect their data by encrypting it and storing it in different external locations. For storing backup data, cloud technologies, for example, are a viable option. Strong passwords and other access control techniques can help organisations safeguard cloud backups.

A business should identify vital business data and the frequency with which the information changes before beginning the backup procedure. This is for the purpose of informing the data backup lifecycle. Separating sensitive data from public data also saves money and time when it comes to creating and maintaining backups. Finally, firms should design and maintain methods for accessing and restoring backup data on a regular basis.

Jennifer Thomas
Jennifer Thomas is the Co-founder and Chief Business Development Officer at Cybers Guards. Prior to that, She was responsible for leading its Cyber Security Practice and Cyber Security Operations Center, which provided managed security services.