Building a cybersecurity roadmap

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Faced with resource constraints, escalating threats, and complex IT environments, organizations are struggling to protect data and strategically align cybersecurity and business goals.

A 2020 IBM study* of more than 3,400 IT and security professionals around the world revealed less than half have plans in place for ransomware attacks. Making matters worse, they’re using an average of 45 separate security controls, leading to fragmentation and decreased efficiency.

Cybercriminals are increasingly well-funded and constantly change their tactics. It’s no longer possible to prevent — or even detect — every attack, and the sudden acceleration of flexible workplace models complicates incident response. This makes moving away from reaction-based security critical.

Get out of firefighter mode

Many security teams address vulnerabilities on an ad hoc basis. They’re so busy putting out fires that they fail to develop a long-term strategy that can help them optimize defenses and move beyond reacting to the latest threat. This approach is neither efficient nor cost-effective, as the average cost of a data breach in the U.S. is currently estimated at $8.64 million.

There’s too much at stake not to make adequate security a priority.

While cyber insurance can help cover costs related to security incidents, it doesn’t help organizations with lax security. Insurers require cyber-hygiene assessments and they can — and will — refuse to cover events that could have been avoided.

Effectively addressing cybersecurity challenges requires a workable plan of action.

Build a security roadmap

Developing a security roadmap helps you align security processes with business goals and optimizes your overall cybersecurity posture. With a solid roadmap, you’ll know where you stand today, where you need to go to be more effective, and what you need to do to get there.

It’s a powerful way to ensure security projects map to the business, stay in sync with IT initiatives, and gain the executive buy-in you need to enable success.

Assess yourself

You’ll first need to evaluate your environment and the risks related to your data assets so you can identify areas that need attention and develop a path to achieving your goals.

Ask yourself the following questions: What do you have? Where is it? How is it currently being secured? Sensitive data needs to be located and classified along with assets including hardware, software, IoT devices, and cloud resources.

It’s also important to address identity and access management concerns. Who has access to what? Is that access appropriate? What can employees and third parties do with their access?

Consider the workload of in-house resources: Is your security team overwhelmed by efforts to secure an increasing number of devices, systems, and data? Are there opportunities to leverage security automation to ease the burden?

A risk assessment helps answer these questions; ensures a clear understanding of your legal, regulatory, and contractual requirements; and evaluates your security controls to identify any gaps in protection.

Many organizations leverage a best-practice cybersecurity framework such as ISO, NIST CSF, or the CIS Controls as the baseline for an assessment. These frameworks can help you gauge the effectiveness of your current solutions and set goals to improve the procedures used to protect sensitive data, perform change management, and provide access to critical assets.

Establish your objectives

Once the assessment is complete, gaps can be measured against the selected control framework and steps to address them can be defined. Depending on your objectives and risk acceptance, a visual representation of recommended initiatives can be detailed within a one-to-three-year roadmap.

The roadmap should ideally include a high-level summary of the investments in people, processes, and technology required to align your capabilities with the selected control framework. Activities should be clearly sequenced to provide an effective implementation plan, with projects prioritized based on risk.

3 ways to improve the journey

Three critical elements should be built into your security roadmap process to enable success:

  1. Make it iterative. Building a roadmap is not a one-and-done project; it should be part of a continuous program strategy and operations cycle. As your organization’s priorities shift along with the threat and regulatory compliance landscape, so must the course you’ve set. Regularly reevaluate your risks and plans. Once you’ve completed the initiatives highlighted within your roadmap, it’s time to repeat the process and document new efforts that align with your adjusted posture and objectives.
  2. Make it inclusive. Take an interview-based approach that incorporates all stakeholders, including IT, HR, legal, and business unit leaders. This way, you gain comprehensive visibility into your organization’s security and business objectives, as well as any ongoing technology-related projects, to ensure the roadmap is in alignment.
  3. Measure success. Before you begin executing projects in your roadmap, be sure you have a way to measure success. Extract key activities and deliverables from each project and use these as milestones, reflecting key dates by documenting the progress of each activity and the deliverables produced. Be prepared to regularly communicate the value of each project through security metrics developed during its progression.

Developing a well-considered roadmap is a significant undertaking. Many companies leverage a vendor-independent technology partner to provide an objective view of their security, facilitate collaboration with different business units, and help them build a cohesive plan of action.

From ad hoc to optimized

From reputational damage and lost business to regulatory fines and remediation costs, security incidents can have devastating consequences. You can promote cyber resilience by developing an understanding of gaps in your security program and taking the necessary steps to remediate them.

Building an iterative, inclusive, and measurable roadmap allows you to prioritize security investments based on the goals and direction of the entire organization and chart a more effective course toward cybersecurity.

Contact us today to start building your cybersecurity roadmap.

Anne Grahn and Garth Whitacre contributed to this post.

*no longer available as of 3/2024