Shifting From a Severity-Focused to Risk-Based Network Security Model

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Organizations handle cybersecurity issues from varying perspectives. It is the precise reason they apply different strategies for fulfilling security objectives. The goal notwithstanding, one essential element to consider is combating the compounding surge in vulnerabilities. While fixing all may look like a ‘wild goose chase,’ adopting a sustainable approach is the way to go. 

At the moment, top managers of companies are more focused on cyber risk than severity levels for security issues. However, the topic encapsulates all potential business losses – financial, operational, reputation, regulatory, and more. Therefore, it becomes necessary to stress that cyber risks are business risks…hence the shift to risk-based security models.

Analyzing Vulnerabilities, Threats, & Risks

In today’s world, data and its protection involve three critical factors for any business. Customers need security guarantees for their personal information. Every organization  needs to focus on the issues bordering on cyber security threats, vulnerabilities, and risks. Therefore, it becomes expedient to understand how the three components intertwine fully. The information helps to give a firm grasp on data security issues, along with a focus on the appropriate area for full-service delivery.  

  • Threat: Focuses on a new incident with the potential to harm a system or the entire organization. It could take any of these three forms; natural, intentional, or unintentional. Cybercriminals constantly devise new and creative ways to compromise data. When organizations take measures to assess threats regularly, they become well prepared for them. 
  • Vulnerability: Refers to a known weakness of a resource prone to exploitation by cybercriminals. An understanding of this crucial aspect is the first step to managing risks. You can begin with vulnerability testing. It is a great way to ensure the constant security of a company’s system. When the weak point gets identified, developing a strategy becomes easy. 
  • Risk: Refers to losing the integrity, availability, or confidentiality of data or information systems  when  a vulnerability is exploited. It often results in an adverse impact on the operations and assets of an organization.  

Cybersecurity risks come in various forms and can evolve at an alarming pace. It is the reason why risk management has become a never-ending responsibility. The goal is to prevent financial or reputational damage in a data breach or cyber-attack. 

Risk-Based Security: A Safety & Soundness Process

Data is always the primary target for most cyber actors, and it’s an arduous task to defend against every threat. Over the years, organizations focused their resources and budget on security technologies like anti-virus, firewalls, SIEMs, and more. They have become more concerned with detecting and preventing security incidents.  

Subsequently, the level of complexity and the increased threat of mobile and IoT  devices have made this focus obsolete. The current level of risk is too high, and it is vital for top management  to focus on risk reduction through data analysis and rapid incident response. 

A risk-based security approach covers five key elements:

I. Attack Surface Visibility & Context

An attack surface is a collection of all attacker-exposed assets. It covers all resources in areas like the cloud, third-party environments, or the company’s subsidiaries. 

One critical security issue is being unaware of the exact location of an organization’s assets or digital infrastructure. As a result, some companies cannot tell whether these assets are fully protected. It is a phenomenon called a shadow risk. The implication is that unmanaged assets become easy  access points for attackers. Therefore, organizations must expose all shadow risks by assessing and mapping their attack surface.  

The truth is this; you can’t protect what you don’t see. So it’s time to make your data work harder. One effective way to carry this out is through attack surface analysis and management. As a universally recognized approach, it is the foundational step necessary for guiding resource investments and security programs. Moreover, organizations need to implement a context-aware change management approach. That way, there can be a balance for rapid changes in all infrastructure and  supporting infrastructure.  

II. Breach and Attack Simulation

A breach and attack simulation is an advanced computer security testing method. You may call it the “hack-yourself” approach. However, security is never static, so you stay on top of the ever-changing trends.  

Attack simulations identify vulnerabilities by mimicking cyber actors’ plausible techniques and attack paths. The approach provides a continuous, automated penetration test. It also improves the previous limitations of  red and blue team testing.  

This technology tracks and resolves vulnerabilities, and also gives regular updates and alerts on imminent risks to your network. It also runs on a 24/7 basis and gives organizations deeper visibility of their defense-readiness level. 

III. Cybersecurity Risk Scoring

A cyber risk score focuses on the evaluation of a security posture. It aims to convert these evaluations into a simplified, comprehensive risk score. The concept of security posture helps organizations know the level of asset safety they possess. That way, they know the area to focus on for improvements . 

An organization that takes such concrete steps shows they are meeting its cybersecurity obligations. In another sense, it leads to  increased revenue generation. The reason is that customers and partners view security as a competitive differentiator. Scoring has therefore become an essential aspect. 

IV. Cyber Exposure Management

Cyber exposure management helps organizations identify, predict, and take action against risks. The discipline hinges on risk-based vulnerability management. That way, you continuously assess your system’s security posture and health. Additionally, organizations also get to unify business objectives with security goals.  

V. Vulnerability Assessments

A vulnerability assessment involves a review of security weaknesses in a system. It evaluates how susceptible a system is and assigns severity levels. There’s also the aspect of recommending remediation or mitigation. 

Some of these vulnerability assessments include:
  • Host Assessment: Host assessments focus on the vulnerability of critical servers to attacks.
  • Database Assessment: These involve   the assessment of a database for misconfiguration and vulnerability. It also entails classifying sensitive data on a network.
  • Network Assessment: Network assessments involve the assessment of policies and practices as a way to prevent unauthorized access to resources.
  • Application Scan: These use automated scans to identify security vulnerabilities in web applications and their source code.

Risk-Based Security & Risk Reduction

Organizations need to recognize that breaches are inevitable. However, we also see that attackers have become better at what they do than the defenders. Therefore, there’s an urgent need to modify the current paradigm of  cyber security towards risk-reduction through risk-based security models.

Where to Start?
  • Assess the status of critical control systems and operations for security vulnerabilities that need addressing.     
  • Revisit security and alarm management standards. This requires significant coordination between all players in the system. 
  • Develop cross-collaboration between engineers and network administrators

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