How to Evaluate Your Company’s Security Posture 

How to Evaluate Your Company’s Security Posture 

  • February 15, 2022

As cyber threats continue to evolve, it’s crucial that your organization has a clear picture of just how protected it is against threats. 

One way to do that is by evaluating your company’s security posture. 

A strong posture is a great first line of defense for keeping your organization safe against both known and unknown risks.

Ready to evaluate where your organization stands? We dig into how to measure your security posture and offer tips to improve it below. 

What is security posture?

Security posture is a measure of an organization’s overall security status. 

You can think of security posture as an umbrella term that covers a long list of security controls including:

Once security posture has been evaluated, companies can see how effective their cybersecurity strategy is (or isn’t). This includes how well a company is able to identify, prevent, and respond to cyber threats.

Security posture takes stock of an organization’s security systems, networks, and information and their security resources such as software, people, policies, and hardware. 

While security posture and security compliance work hand in hand, compliance is more about following rules related to standards and regulations while security posture is about an organization’s overall ability to protect itself against outside threats. 

Why is having a strong security posture important?

One of the biggest benefits of gauging your organization’s security posture is understanding how vulnerable you are to outside threats. 

Not having a solid security posture is a little like locking your doors but leaving your windows open. A company that is unaware of where their security posture stands is a company vulnerable to outside (and inside) threats. 

Poor security posture puts all data at risk (including customers’) and puts organizations at risk of falling out of compliance with security frameworks like SOC 2 or HIPAA. 

A recent study found that 70% of security and IT professionals say that security hygiene and security posture management has become increasingly challenging over the past two years.  

Illustration of a lock with arrows pointing upward along with text describing a statistic that found security and IT pros find security posture management increasingly difficult.

One challenge facing companies today is a growing attack surface. An attack surface is all possible entry points that an unauthorized user could exploit to gain access to a system. 

A company’s attack surface grows when they:

  • Have increasing amounts of sensitive data to store
  • Increase the number of remote workers
  • Use more space on a public cloud
  • Utilize new SaaS applications or services
  • Have more users connecting to networks and applications

The larger the attack surface, the more potential for security problems. A study by Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) found that nearly 7 in 10 companies experienced at least one cyber attack due to an unknown, unmanaged, or poorly managed internet-facing asset. 

Getting a clear picture of your security posture is a crucial step toward becoming more proactive in both your attack surface management and overall security strategy.

How to evaluate your security posture

The posture assessment is an in-depth examination of a company’s internal and external security controls within one document. The assessment is typically conducted in four phases: 

  • Planning stage: A dedicated project manager will take on the responsibilities of scoping the security posture assessment, identifying goals, and coordinating a detailed process. 
  • Documentation review: The project manager will then gather documentation on internal and external security controls and processes to provide an overview of current security practices. 
  • Assessments: The organization will then undergo assessments to test exposure areas. Depending on the bandwidth and experience of your internal team, you may decide to consult with an outside organization to conduct penetration testing or a gap analysis to be sure all security areas have been assessed. 
  • Reporting: Once assessments have been completed, the organization will review findings and assess a security posture level. Any vulnerabilities highlighted from the findings will serve as a roadmap for prioritizing and fortifying overall security.

Security posture assessment resources

To help you better understand the security posture assessment process, we’ve compiled a list of resources and guides. 

We've created a flow chart to help you get a high-level check on how strong your security posture is, but every organization should also conduct a security posture assessment to finalize results.

Flowchart to help you determine where your security posture stands. The flowchart asks questions that determine if you have a strong, average, or weak security posture.

Improving security posture: 5 strategies to implement

While each organization’s security approach is as unique as the data they protect, there are a few helpful tips we can offer as you begin assessing your organization’s security posture. 

1. Create an asset inventory

To properly protect your organization’s sensitive data, you must first know where it lives. 

Catalog all data assets tied to your organization’s security posture. Consider both digital and physical data assets and those accessed by third parties. 

When organizing data assets into an inventory, be sure to note what departments or individuals have access to each asset and determine whether that access is warranted. 

After all of these assets have been cataloged, you can then begin to rank them based on criticality. It’s also helpful to estimate the potential monetary impact of a breached data asset by calculating a dollar value. 

2. Rank and prioritize risks 

There are many methods for ranking risks. One of the most popular is by using a risk matrix. 

A risk matrix is a helpful tool to prescribe levels to the risks your organization faces. Risk matrices are made by comparing the likelihood that a potential risk might happen against the impact that your business faces should that risk occur. 

For example, a high-priority risk would be an incoming hurricane that’s expected to cause power outages and disrupt business operations. The likelihood of this risk happening is high and the impact on business is critical. 

Having a plan in place for what to do if a storm knocks out power ensures your team isn’t scrambling at the last minute. Your business is able to proactively let customers or vendors know of the potential outage and potentially deliver generators to keep operations running. 

Prioritize the risks that pose the greatest threat and focus your team’s time and resources to minimize their impact.

Illustration of a man with his chin resting on fist in contemplation. Text along with the illustration offers tips on the right questions to ask after ranking your risks.

3. Educate employees  

A company’s least secure employee is one of its largest vulnerabilities. In fact, IBM reported that the average cost of a data breach caused by human error is $3.33 million.

One way to help mitigate data breaches caused by employee error is to effectively train them on security best practices. This should include training for all new employees during onboarding and continuous on-the-job training. 

Interactive training methods include quizzes, demonstrations, and staging physical security situations. You can also take advantage of a wide range of free online security courses, such as Amazon’s cybersecurity awareness training

Your business should also have a clear protocol in place for offboarding employees. This includes retrieving devices and revoking access to company email and servers. 

4. Create an incident management plan 

Once you’ve identified the biggest threats facing your business, it’s helpful to create a detailed plan for how to manage each risk. 

These plans can then be stored in an incident management plan, which is a document that helps an organization return to normalcy as quickly as possible when a risk event occurs. 

Your incident management plan should list clear roles and responsibilities for team members. The plan should also include instructions on how to document the incident and what parties to notify, such as customers or the board of directors. 

Once a threat has been eradicated and resolved, your team should do a post-op review of how effective the plan was, any potential improvements, and lessons learned to keep it from happening again. 

An incident management plan can be a helpful way to assign roles to high-priority risks, which can help break down the daunting task of risk management into more manageable pieces. 

Illustration of a woman in blue dress and blue shoes reading a tablet and taking notes on how to create an incident management plan.

5. Continuously review gaps in your security controls

After your initial security posture assessment has been completed, you’re not off the hook. Security compliance isn’t a one-and-done item to be crossed off a list — it should be an ongoing process.

You should be continually testing your security controls to proactively identify potential gaps. 

Undergoing regular cybersecurity audits and internal audits will help evaluate weaknesses in your security controls and bolster your security posture over time. 

How Secureframe can improve your security posture

Secureframe’s in-house compliance team comes equipped with decades of collective experience. We’re able to give personalized advice based on your company’s unique needs and industry requirements. 

Request a demo to find out how Secureframe can help you gauge and improve your security posture today.

Infographic that covers what security posture is, a flowchart to help you determine your security posture, tips for how to improve it, and tips for creating a more security-minded workplace.