Adaptive Segmentationmicro-segmentation September 23, 2022

How to Strengthen Your Security Posture

Charlie Bedell, Senior Content Marketing Specialist

Cyber threats are always changing. Does your organization have a strong enough security posture to protect against them? 

Organizations are quickly adoptiong a Zero Trust security strategy, operating as if they have already been breached and taking steps to inhibit bad actors from spreading throughout their network. 

As cyberattacks evolve in frequency and sophistication – and remain inevitable risks – your organization must be prepared.  

Having a strong security posture means your organization is ready to protect from an inevitable, potentially devastating breach at any time. 

What is security posture? 

An organization’s security posture describes the overall cybersecurity strength of its network

The quicker you can prevent, respond to, and contain cyber threats, the better your security posture. 

But what does it consist of?  

Here are the four key aspects that combine to form your organization’s security posture.  

An inventory of IT assets 

You can't secure what you don't know exists. The foundation of your organization’s security posture begins with an inventory of all IT assets.  

It's also important to know how critical to business each asset is considered. This will help determine assets' breach risk and the business impact a breached asset could have.  

An inventory of security controls and their effectiveness 

In addition to a full IT asset inventory, you should also maintain an inventory of cybersecurity controls you currently have deployed.  

There are 4 main types of security controls your organization may have in its inventory: 

  • Physical controls such as access control cards, surveillance cameras, or locked data centers. 
  • Digital security controls such as usernames and passwords, two-factor authentification, antivirus software, and firewalls. 
  • Cybersecurity controls specifically designed to prevent or contain cyberattacks on data, such as an intrusion prevention system (IPS) or network segmentation. 
  • Cloud security controls taken in cooperation with your cloud services provider to ensure protection of your organization’s data and workloads in the cloud. 

Accompanying a security control inventory should be a clear understanding of each control’s effectiveness in securing against a cyberattack. A strong cybersecurity posture requires layers of defense, so it’s expected that you will have multilpe assets with varying levels of effectiveness  

Knowledge of your attack vectors 

Every organization has them: Attack vectors are paths hackers can take to exploit your cybersecurity vulnerabilities. 

Inventories for your IT assets and security controls will now allow you to determine your organization’s attack vectors.  

Common attack vectors include: 

  • Phishing emails and text messages that trick recipients into downloading malware or giving up private information like login credentials. 
  • Malware is any kind of software intentionally designed to cause harm to the network. Hackers use malware to gain unauthorized access to an organization’s network and devices to steal data or damage systems. 
  • Unpatched security vulnerabilities on applications or servers that have not been addressed by fixed or updated. 

The attack surface 

Your organization's attack surface is the combination of your entire asset inventory and all attack vectors.  

It includes all the ways a cyberattacker can attempt to gain unauthorized access to any of your assets with any method of attack.  

It’s vital that you’re able to understand the full scope of your attack surface. This will allow you to correctly prioritize cyber risks to strengthen your security posture. 

How to Determine Your Security Posture 

Your organization’s security posture isn’t a guess or estimate.  

There are quantitative ways to determine the strength of your security posture. These include creating an IT asset inventory, mapping your attack surface, and understanding your cyber risk. 

Create an accurate IT asset inventory 

When developing an inventory of all assets currently deployed in your organization, make sure to include these types of assets: 

  • On-premises 
  • Cloud 
  • Mobile 
  • Third-party  
  • Managed and unmanaged  
  • Applications and infrastructure 

And once the inventory is complete, categorize the assets by: 

  • Geographic location 
  • Internet-facing perimeter assets 
  • Core assets that aren’t internet-exposed 

Be as accurate and thorough as possible when compiling your asset inventory. Being able to track and audit your inventory is a basic requirement for most security standards, including CISA Top 20

An IT asset inventory also provides a way to monitor the age of your systems. Aging systems mean potentially less support and updates by the manufacturer and, in turn, an easy way for attackers to access your network. 

Map your attack surface 

You can also map out your organization’s attack surface to see vulnerabilities where attackers can enter your network. 

Cybersecurity platforms like Illumio offer vulnerability maps that incorporate data from third-party vulnerability scanning tools and overlay them with an application dependency map. This allows security teams to see network communication flows, get insight into where vulnerabilities remain exposed, and find pathways an attack can take within your network. 

Attack surfaces can be huge. Thousands of assets targeted by hundreds of attack vectors creates hundreds of thousands of data points. That’s why it’s best to use a security platform that includes a way to map your attack surface and get alerts about potential vulnerabilities.  

Understand your cyber risk 

Less cyber risk means a stronger security posture. By understanding where your cyber risks lie, you can target vulnerabilities for improvement, boost your security posture, and develop a cyber resilient network. 

Security experts oftentimes calculate cyber risk using this framework: 

Cyber Risk = Threat x Vulnerability x Assets 

The equation isn’t about numbers; it should be used as a model for understanding the relationships among each aspect that determines your organizations’ cyber risk: 

  • Threat accounts for the frequency at which a cyberattack is expected to occur, e.g. 1 in every 99 emails is a phishing attempt. 
  • Vulnerability is the likelihood that attackers will exploit a particular network vulnerability and succeed in breaching the network. 
  • Assets are any item on your IT assets inventory and how critical they are to business operations. 

For example, if your network is very vulnerable because it’s lacking basic security measures and your asset is critical, the risk is very high.  

On the other hand, if you have strong security measures protecting a critical asset, your cyber risk will only be medium.  

This equation provides a way for your security team to grasp the cyber risk for different assets and vulnerabilities present in your organization.  

Improving Your Security Posture 

Does your organization’s security posture need work? It most likely does. 

Use these three steps to begin the process of improving your security posture with Zero Trust principles. 

1. Get visibility into network communication 

You must be able to see your network in order to protect it. Use an application dependency map to get a clear picture of all communication and traffic, both known and unknown, between workflows, devices and the internet. 

Application dependency mapping helps security teams capture critical insights about an organization’s entire IT ecosystem – and you might be surprised by what you find. Many organizations are unaware of hundreds, if not thousands, of open communication flows that leave their network vulnerable to attack.  

2. Assess your vulnerabilities  

You can also overlay a vulernability map onto your application dependency map to see the highest-severity vulnerabilities on each workload and their level of exposure to attack.  

These maps can help you determine which security policies need to be deployed and what environments in your network need to be segmented apart from each other. They also offer on-going monitoring of your network communication. 

3. Segment your network

Once you’ve mapped the network, you can start setting granular segmentation policies to control unnecessary and unwanted communications. This is called microsegmentation, or Zero Trust Segmentation, and is a main pillar of Zero Trust security.  

Zero Trust Segmentation segments internal networks and prevents the spread of ransomware and cyberattacks. Breaches may be inevitable, but segmenting your network ensures they don't become a devastating, widespread attack on your organization. 

If a cyberattack does occur, you can automatically isolate compromised systems and high-value assets in minutes to proactively stop the spread of a breach or reactively during an active attack. 

Secure your organization with Illumio

A strong security posture means lower cyber risk and greater cyber resilience for your organization.  

Illumio can help. 

The Illumio Zero Trust Segmentation Platform allows you to: 

  • See: Visualize all communication and traffic, both known and unknown, between workflows, devices, and the internet. 
  • Set: With every change, automatically set granular segmentation policies to control unnecessary and unwanted communications. 
  • Stop: Automatically isolate compromised systems and high-value assets in minutes to proactively stop the spread of a breach or reactively during an active attack. 

Zero Trust Segmentation (ZTS) is proven to help organizations of all sizes, from Fortune 100 to small business, stop breaches and ransomware in minutes, save millions in application downtime, and accelerate cloud and digital transformation projects. 

Want to learn more about Illumio, the Zero Trust Segmentation company? 

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