What is risk posture?

Risk posture collectively refers to the status of overall cybersecurity program implemented by an organization to protect itself from breaches and safeguard its data. This includes the overall management and strategy related to protecting the enterprise’s software and hardware, networks, services, and information.

The key components of the risk posture are:

  • The controls and measure in place to protect the enterprise from cyber-attacks
  • The ability of the enterprise to manage its defenses
  • The readiness and ability to react to and recover from security events.

Understanding and defining the full scope of your risk posture is essential to protecting your business against breaches.

Three steps to building a robust risk posture

  1. Identify what you are trying to protect by discovering and inventorying all IT assets including systems, applications, devices, data, business processes, and users.
  2. Identify risks to your assets by monitoring assets for vulnerabilities including the likelihood of breach via a range of attack vectors and the impact if a particular asset were to be breached.
  3. Document security controls (like firewalls etc.) currently in place that reduce risk to assets.

What is risk posture assessment?

Risk posture assessment (or risk assessment) is the process of identifying, analyzing, and evaluating cyber-risk, in order to secure the enterprise’s software, hardware, network, services, and information. The risk assessment process starts with the following questions:

  • Do we have a complete inventory of all of our assets?
  • Do we have real-time visibility into our entire attack surface?
  • Can we measure our cybersecurity and breach risk in quantifiable terms?
  • How comprehensive and effective is our overall cybersecurity infrastructure?
  • How effective and resilient are our cybersecurity defenses?
  • Can we prioritize our vulnerability management actions based on business criticality and risk?
  • How vulnerable are we to potential breaches and attacks?

Each organization’s cyber-risk has many moving parts. That said, understanding and defining the full scope of your cybersecurity posture is essential to risk assessment and management; and effective risk assessment is essential to protecting your business against the high cost of data theft and breaches.

The importance of risk assessment

For the modern enterprise, the attack surface is both hyper-dimensional and massive. The sheer size and complexity of today’s digital landscape makes bringing the organization’s attack surface into focus a truly daunting and at the same time critically important task.

Performing a cybersecurity risk assessment allows you to gather information about your network’s cybersecurity framework, its security controls, its vulnerabilities, and any gaps. Your goal is to determine any exposures or risks that exist across networks, devices, applications, and users. Once identified, you will need to rate how big a risk these problem areas are in terms of your specific business, what you’re currently doing to mitigate the issues you’ve identified, and what still needs to be done.

Consider every touchpoint and everything connected to your network – printers, laptops, cell phones, and smart devices; these are all potential entry points for malicious code or attackers to enter your network.

Risk posture best practices

When thinking about risk posture, the idea is to fully understand the threat landscape, then create a security framework that allows you to be just as smart and agile as your adversaries.

There are a number of ways you can do that, and here are a few emerging industry best practices to consider:

  1. Start by inventorying all of your IT assets (devices, applications, users), including their relationship to each other.
  2. Conduct a comprehensive risk assessment across a multitude of attack vectors that pose security risks and prioritize based on business criticality.
  3. Develop a well-devised plan that covers all elements of the organization’s cyber-risk management infrastructure and also addresses how the business can recover quickly if an incident does occur.
  4. Continually adjust your risk posture to align with a changing environment, carefully monitoring your attack surface across the ever-evolving cyber landscape.
  5. Disseminate comprehensive security policies and procedures throughout the organization, making security a part of everyone’s job and the company culture.
  6. Evaluate the security of your network with attack simulations, then apply the lessons learned to improve your level of resilience.
  7. Foster internal champions to help drive security efforts forward.

As we’ve seen, cybersecurity presents some unique challenges, not the least of which is the vast attack surface, tens of thousands of IT assets, and hundreds (even thousands) of ways an organization can be breached. Finding weak points with comprehensive and continuous risk posture assessment will help you protect your business from costly intrusions later on.