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Five best practices for maximising security on a tight budget

Five best practices for maximising security on a tight budget

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We’ve never been more connected. We’ve also never been more under threat from malicious actors seeking to do us harm. If you’re looking to enhance your protection from cyberattacks in today’s interconnected world, but you’re concerned about whether you can budget for the investment required, Thomas Cartlidge, Head of Threat Intelligence at Six Degrees, can offer five best practices for maximising security on a tight budget.

It’s a dangerous cyber world out there. According to IBM, the average cost of a data breach in 2021 was US$4.21 million globally. In addition to the financial implications, organisations also risk regulatory fines, reduced consumer trust and potential legal ramifications in the event of a data breach resulting from a successful cyberattack. Fortunately, these risks can be mitigated with effective cybersecurity measures.

Here, we take a look at five best practices organisations can deploy in order to maximise security on a tight budget.

Spend doesn’t always equal success

One crucial factor in ensuring strong cybersecurity is budgeting. This can be challenging, particularly if you don’t understand the threat landscape and your organisation’s vulnerabilities. Bear in mind that more investment doesn’t necessarily amount to better cybersecurity – in fact, only 36% of UK companies are confident that they’re getting the best value from their investment.

Mapping your cybersecurity strategy against potential threats is critical; here are some of the best practices you should consider adopting.

1. Establish your risk appetite

In today’s world, one thing is clear — it’s impossible to eliminate or avoid risk altogether. With this realisation, it’s vital to establish your risk appetite — the amount of risk your organisation is willing to accept to achieve long-term strategic security objectives. Your risk appetite acts as an anchor point for prioritising cybersecurity investments. As such, an effective risk appetite should be:

  • Strategic
  • Risk-focused
  • Tailored
  • Actionable
  • Measurable

Your risk appetite should help provide clear-cut objectives to help your organisation reduce its risk profile. This will require a comprehensive review of your cyber posture to understand your vulnerabilities, areas for improvement and best practices to implement. This process should be continuous.

You also need to consider operational risks. This allows you to plan for both manageable and unforeseen risks. The security landscape is continuously evolving, with new actors and threats constantly joining the scene. You need to be agile and flexible to fight unknown risks and the right level of risk appetite can help you do just that.

2. Spend in the right areas

For most organisations, the cybersecurity budget is a percentage of the IT budget, often varying from 5% to 20%. While this helps to account for spending, it can be limiting, especially when tackling unprecedented threats. Instead, organisations should adopt a targeted spending approach for an effective cybersecurity strategy.

Identify the key areas your budget should cover, including critical training, infrastructure, data and awareness. You should also consider investing in offensive security to bolster your response mechanisms and secure your operational technologies.

For effective budgeting, it’s essential to carry out periodic security risk assessments to understand your priorities and strategies effectively for the future. Be sure to train your employees and create and implement a cybersecurity policy that sets organisation-wide rules and regulations for all employees.

3. Simplify your technology estate

While a heavy and complex IT system might be easy on the eye, it can be complicated to manage properly, thereby potentially increasing the risk of a data breach. Instead, you need to simplify your technology estate to eliminate complexities and streamline your security functions.

One way of simplifying your systems is integrated tooling, which allows you to connect tools to work together, reducing your response time and costs. To achieve this, you need to understand how your tools work and interact with each other. This includes mapping all the tools you use, including:

  • Firewalls
  • Antivirus software
  • Wireless network security appliances
  • Intrusion Detection System (IDS)

In addition, you need to leverage purpose-built services that combine different functions, such as monitoring, detection, analysis and prevention, into a single potent solution. A good example is Managed Detection and Response (MDR). MDR is enabled by integrated technology with centralised Security Information and Event Management (SIEM), a system that collects and records activity from numerous resources, providing analysis and a holistic view of an organisation’s IT infrastructure. As well as reducing your upfront investment, MDR helps you keep pace with ever-changing adversarial tactics.

4. Focus on outcomes and opportunities

Cyberattacks are no longer far-fetched concepts — whether you’re a small or large organisation, you can be a potential target. As such, you shouldn’t view cybersecurity investment as a cost but as a strategic opportunity that shapes outcomes. It can help protect your critical assets, secure customer data and ensure continuity. Ensure your cybersecurity procurement helps you meet business goals. It isn’t just about buying the latest piece of technology – effective security is about a combination of people, process and technology.

Bear in mind that a complete security architecture considers four key pillars: prevent, detect, respond and predict. If your system exhibits these aspects you can achieve long-term success, making it easy to accomplish other high-impact projects for a competitive advantage. As such, your organisation can reap the long-term benefits of your cybersecurity investment.

5. Use strategic partners

With the evolving nature of cyberthreats, it has become more and more difficult to manage your cybersecurity needs without additional support. At some point, you may need to enlist the help of managed IT service providers (MSPs). MSPs can support with:

  • Developing and implementing an effective cybersecurity strategy
  • Procuring IT infrastructure and installing your hardware
  • Implementing training programmes for employees
  • Providing ongoing maintenance and updating your systems

MSPs help to bridge the gap between your IT department and the rapidly evolving digital world. Working with them means you have access to security experts in different fields for consultations, emergency cases, or other security needs. You can be sure of quick response times and proactive support in the event of an incident.

With the right MSP, you can channel your efforts, time and resources into growing and improving outcomes for your organisation. MSPs take care of the heavy burden of securing, maintaining and updating your IT systems, allowing you to focus on what you do best.

Start doing more and spending less

We’re seeing an arms race between attackers and defenders, and attackers are winning. The sheer volume of cyberattacks being launched means that siloed security solutions are unable to keep up.

When you’re considering your own cybersecurity hygiene, think about where you’ve spent your money and how it relates to your organisation’s goals. Where are you under-investing? Are you over-investing in the wrong places? There’s no use investing in high-tech tools if you don’t have the skills and resources to configure and manage them properly as the threat landscape inevitably shifts.

Making cyber-smart decisions that align to your wider organisational strategy is an essential element of maintaining operational integrity and ensuring success in this hostile digital landscape.

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