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Charting Your Course: A Guide to Planning Your Cyber Security Program

Compass and a map

In today's hyperconnected world, having an effective cyber security program is not optional - it is essential. Cyber security breaches have the potential to severely impact businesses, damage trust, and result in long-term financial harm.


Whilst creating and executing such a program may seem daunting, it does not need to be. This article provides you with a guide to planning your cyber security programme.


 

Point of Origin: Understanding your As-Is

Conduct a cyber security assessment to understand your current maturity, and your key risks. To do this, identify an appropriate standard or framework, and assess your capabilities against this.


For smaller, or less mature organisations, this could be the NCSC's 10 Steps to Cyber Security, for larger businesses, this could be ISO27001 or NIST CyberSecurity Framework.


Depending on the level of assessment, you may wish to start with identifying your critical assets (such as data, systems, applications), potential threats (phishing, malware, insider threats), and weaknesses in your current controls. Services like penetration testing and vulnerability assessments can help identify process and technology weakenesses, whislt maturity assessment services take a top-down approach, reviewing governance and accountability, and policies and processes.


Destination: Defining an Appropriate Target State

Setting your Target State is not about being the best at everything, or sometimes even anything. It is about being proportionate and pragmatic to your business and the risks you face. You should consider whether you need to be a leader in security, or is a solid baseline sufficient?


Focusing on security hygiene will help mitigate a large proportion of the cyber security risks businesses face. From here, you can focus on those risks that need additional controls or increased maturity due to the sophistication of the potential threat.


Charting the Course: Defining your Initiatives

Once you have your target maturity level in sight, you can start to chart the course to get there. It helps to break down the journey into achievable stages. For example, these might include:

  • Establishing foundational controls: Ensure security hygiene is consistently applied across your estate, such as multi-factor authentication, access controls, firewalls, and endpoint protection.

  • Building a security culture: Train employees on identifying and reporting suspicious activity. Track and report on security behaviours, influencing them as they occur to foster a strong security culture.

  • Continuous monitoring and improvement: Regularly conduct security audits, and test and refine your response plans.

  • Automation and integration: Leverage security automation tools and integrate security across your environment to drive efficiencies and consistency.


Ensure Your Success: Identify Supporting Roles

Delivering a robust cyber security program requires a multi-faceted approach. This includes relying on stakeholders from across your organisation, and possibly outside too.

  • Internal resources: Develop a cyber security team and designate security champions across business departments.

  • External expertise: Consider any additional support you require, such as consultants or managed service providers.

  • Industry best practices: Stay informed about the latest threats and adopt industry-recognised security frameworks.


Towards the Horizon: The Ongoing Journey

Cybersecurity is not a destination, but an ongoing journey. Regularly reassess your maturity, adjusting your plan based on new threats, and adapting your program to evolving technologies and business needs.


Ensure audit findings, lessons learnt from incidents and other areas for improvement are added to your cyber security programme as they are identified. Consider the target state for each of these to ensure your maturity remains pragmatic and proportionate against your business model.


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