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Mastering Cyber Hygiene: Building Processes to Improve Your Cybersecurity Posture


In our continuing series on Mastering Cyber Hygiene, we are going to go beyond the initial “inventorying” phase and on to the “building” phase. In our last post, “Mastering Cyber Hygiene: Best Practices for Software, Data, and Account Inventory Management,” we discussed the importance of understanding what IT infrastructure you have and what needs to be protected before deciding how best to protect it. Now that we have established what Hardware, Software, Data, and Accounts are under your IT infrastructure we will go into best practices for building out processes to protect all of these. Along the way, we will touch upon the importance of cyber hygiene, the Center for Internet Security and Critical Security controls, and how to improve your cybersecurity posture.


The Importance of Cyber Hygiene in Today's Digital Age

I don’t mean to be repetitive, but I think it is necessary to reiterate the importance of cyber hygiene. Cyber hygiene is vital in today's digital age because cyber threats are continuously evolving. Cyber attackers are always looking for new ways to exploit vulnerabilities and gain access to sensitive information. Therefore, it's essential to implement cyber hygiene practices to reduce your organization's exposure to cyber risks. Cyber hygiene practices can help prevent cyberattacks, minimize the impact of cyber incidents, and ensure business continuity. At the same time, we want to be clear; cyber hygiene is the bare minimum any organization should be striving for when addressing their cybersecurity posture. No one wants to think of doing the bare minimum as enough, and the same holds true for your business. But establishing good cyber hygiene creates an amazingly impactful foundation for your organization’s cybersecurity posture.


Understanding the CIS Security Controls Framework

The Center for Internet Security (CIS) Security Controls Framework is a set of guidelines that organizations can use to establish and maintain a robust cybersecurity posture. The CIS Security Controls Framework provides a comprehensive set of security controls that organizations can implement to secure their data and systems. The framework is organized into 20 critical security controls, which are grouped into three categories: basic, foundational, and organizational.


The basic security controls are the first five security controls in the framework and are the most critical. These controls include the inventory and control of hardware and software assets, continuous vulnerability management, and controlled use of administrative privileges. The foundational security controls are the next 10 security controls in the framework, and they build on the basic controls. The foundational controls include malware defenses, data recovery capability, and secure configuration for hardware and software on laptops, workstations, and servers. The organizational security controls are the last five security controls in the framework, and they focus on developing and implementing a comprehensive cybersecurity program.


Building a Data Management Process for Cyber Hygiene

One of the critical components of cyber hygiene is data management. Data management involves identifying, categorizing, and classifying data based on its sensitivity and implementing appropriate controls to protect it. Building a data management process involves identifying the data you need to protect, determining the level of protection required, and implementing controls to protect the data. Data management also includes regularly reviewing and updating the data protection controls.


To build a data management process, you need to start by identifying the types of data you hold and where the data is stored. You also need to determine the sensitivity of the data and the level of protection required. These are best practices we discussed in “Mastering Cyber Hygiene: Best Practices for Software, Data, and Account Inventory Management.” Once you have identified the data, you can begin implementing the following best practices:

  • Develop and implement access controls.

  • Develop and implement standardized minimum encryption policies for data at rest and in transit.

  • Develop and implement data backup and recovery processes.

It's also essential to regularly review and update the data protection controls to ensure they remain effective. By implementing these best practices, you can improve the confidentiality and security of data assets under control.


Implementing a Secure Configuration Process

Secure configuration is another critical component of cyber hygiene. Secure configuration involves ensuring that hardware and software are configured securely to reduce the risk of cyber-attacks. Implementing a secure configuration process involves identifying the hardware and software used in your organization and ensuring that they are configured securely. It's also essential to implement a process to monitor and manage configuration changes. Here are some of the best practices when it comes to the secure configuration process:

  • Determine the configuration requirements for each hardware and software component.

  • Implement controls such as change management processes, access controls, and configuration monitoring.

  • Use change management processes to track and approve any changes to the configurations.

  • Enforce access controls to restrict access to configuration settings to authorized personnel only.

  • Monitor configurations regularly to detect any unauthorized changes or deviations from the established configuration standards.

  • Implement automated tools to ensure consistent and standardized configurations across all systems.

  • Review and update configuration settings regularly to ensure they align with current security best practices and policies.

By implementing these best practices, you can improve the security of devices and software in your IT infrastructure by limiting unknown vulnerabilities.


Developing an Access Granting and Revoking Process

Access controls are critical in ensuring the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of your data and systems. Access controls involve managing user access to data and systems based on the principle of least privilege. Developing an access granting and revoking process involves identifying the users who need access to data and systems and implementing controls to grant and revoke access.

  • Identify users who require access to data and systems.

  • Determine the level of access required for each user.

  • Implement controls such as user account management to manage user access.

  • Use authentication mechanisms to verify the identity of the user attempting to access the system.

  • Implement authorization controls to ensure users only have access to data and systems they require for their job function.

  • Assign access privileges based on the principle of least privilege, which means granting the minimum level of access necessary for the user to perform their job function.

  • Monitor access logs and audit trails to detect any unauthorized access attempts or suspicious activity.

  • Regularly review and update access permissions to ensure they align with current business needs and security policies.

  • Have a documented process for granting and revoking access, and ensure it is followed consistently across the organization.

By implementing these best practices, you can improve your cybersecurity posture by limiting privilege creep and monitoring for unauthorized access when it arises.


Establishing a Vulnerability Management and Remediation Process

Vulnerability management is critical in identifying and addressing vulnerabilities in your data and systems. Vulnerability management involves identifying, assessing, and prioritizing vulnerabilities and implementing controls to remediate them. Establishing a vulnerability management and remediation process involves implementing a process to identify and assess vulnerabilities, prioritize vulnerabilities based on risk, and implement controls to remediate the vulnerabilities.

  • Identify vulnerabilities in your data and systems.

  • Determine the level of risk associated with each vulnerability.

  • Prioritize vulnerabilities based on their level of risk and potential impact on the organization.

  • Implement vulnerability scanning tools to regularly scan for known vulnerabilities in your systems and applications.

  • Conduct risk assessments to identify vulnerabilities that may not be detectable by automated tools, such as misconfigurations or business logic errors.

  • Establish a patch management process to deploy security updates and patches in a timely manner to remediate identified vulnerabilities.

  • Implement a process for tracking and verifying the installation of patches and updates.

  • Monitor the effectiveness of the vulnerability management and remediation process by tracking the time it takes to remediate vulnerabilities and the number of vulnerabilities identified and remediated over time.

  • Regularly review and update the vulnerability management and remediation process to ensure it aligns with current security best practices and policies.

By implementing these best practices your company can limit its exposure to vulnerabilities and remedy them once they have been uncovered.



Implementing an Operating System Patch Management Process

Operating system patch management is critical in ensuring that your data and systems remain secure. Operating system patch management involves identifying and deploying patches to address security vulnerabilities in operating systems. Implementing an operating system patch management process involves identifying the operating systems used in your organization, monitoring for security vulnerabilities, and implementing controls to deploy patches. Many of these best practices will mirror the vulnerability management and remediation processes.

  • Identify the operating systems used in your organization.

  • Determine the patch deployment requirements for each operating system, including the frequency and urgency of patches.

  • Prioritize patches based on their severity and potential impact on the organization.

  • Establish a patch management process to ensure timely deployment of patches and updates.

  • Use change management processes to track and approve any changes to the operating systems, including patch deployment.

  • Implement configuration management to ensure consistent and standardized configurations across all systems.

  • Test patches and updates in a non-production environment to ensure they do not introduce new vulnerabilities or break existing functionality.

  • Monitor patch deployment logs and audit trails to detect any issues or failures.

  • Regularly review and update the patch management process to ensure it aligns with current security best practices and policies.

By implementing these best practices, you can improve the security of your organization as well as the stability of systems being used. Additionally, a functioning operating system patch management system is required across various compliance and regulatory bodies.


Developing a Data Recovery Process

Data recovery is critical in ensuring business continuity and minimizing the impact of cyber incidents. Developing a data recovery process involves identifying the data that needs to be recovered, determining the recovery requirements, and implementing controls to recover the data. Data recovery also includes regularly testing the data recovery controls to ensure they remain effective.

  • Identify the critical data that needs to be recovered in case of a data loss or system failure.

  • Determine the recovery requirements, including the recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO).

  • Establish backup processes to regularly backup data, ensuring that data is stored securely and offsite.

  • Implement recovery processes to restore data from backups in case of data loss or system failure, ensuring that the restoration process meets the RTO and RPO requirements.

  • Test the backup and recovery processes regularly to ensure that they are effective and meet the recovery requirements.

  • Implement access controls to ensure that only authorized personnel have access to backup data and recovery processes.

  • Implement change management processes to track and approve any changes to the backup and recovery processes.

  • Regularly review and update the backup and recovery processes to ensure that they align with current security best practices and policies.

Developing a data recovery process ensures that your organization will be able to get back up and running in the face of a cyber incident (system crash, ransomware attack, etc.) or even in the case of a natural disaster.


Implementing an Isolated Instance of Data Recovery

An isolated instance of data recovery is critical in ensuring that your data is protected from cyber threats. An isolated instance of data recovery involves creating a separate environment for data recovery to ensure that the data is not compromised during the recovery process. Implementing an isolated instance of data recovery involves implementing controls to create a separate environment for data recovery and ensuring that the data recovery process is secure.


To implement an isolated instance of data recovery, you need to start by identifying the requirements for the isolated environment. You also need to determine the controls required to ensure that the environment is secure. Once you have identified the requirements and the controls, you can implement controls such as separate networks, firewalls, and access controls to create an isolated environment for data recovery.



Creating a Cybersecurity Awareness Program for Employees

Employees are often the weakest link in an organization's cybersecurity posture. Therefore, it's essential to create a cybersecurity awareness program to educate employees on cybersecurity best practices. Creating a cybersecurity awareness program involves identifying the cybersecurity risks faced by employees and implementing controls to mitigate the risks. The cybersecurity awareness program should also include regular training and testing to ensure that employees remain aware of the risks and the controls in place.


To create a cybersecurity awareness program, you need to start by identifying the cybersecurity risks faced by employees. You also need to determine the controls required to mitigate the risks. Once you have identified the risks and the controls, you can implement controls such as training programs, testing programs, and communication programs to educate employees and raise awareness.



Developing an Incident Management Process

Incident management is critical in responding to cyber incidents and minimizing their impact. Developing an incident management process involves identifying the types of incidents that can occur, establishing an incident response team, and implementing controls to respond to incidents. Incident management also includes regularly testing the incident response controls to ensure they remain effective.


To develop an incident management process, you need to start by identifying the types of incidents that can occur. You also need to establish an incident response team and determine the roles and responsibilities of the team members. Once you have established the incident response team, you can implement controls such as incident response plans, communication plans, and testing plans to ensure that the incident response controls remain effective.




Conclusion

Mastering cyber hygiene is critical in today's digital age to protect your data and systems from cyber threats. Building processes for cyber hygiene involves implementing controls such as data management, secure configuration, access controls, vulnerability management, operating system patch management, data recovery, an isolated instance of data recovery, cybersecurity awareness, and incident management. As you can see, mastering cyber hygiene can be daunting. However, by implementing these controls, you can establish and maintain a robust cybersecurity posture and reduce your organization's exposure to cyber risks.




Contact Us

Quantum Vigilance can help your company develop a cybersecurity program that meets and exceeds basic cyber hygiene levels. Our QvCISO programs are made to assess your cyber risk and tailor solutions to your needs. We will provide cybersecurity guidance that you and your team members will understand. Contact us to get started.



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