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Security failure, 13 ways to avoid one and why security programs often fail

Avoid a security failure.

Organizations often pour hundreds of thousands, millions or billions of dollars into cyber security. And the monetary resources only represent the edge of the iceberg. Enterprises also deploy large teams of people, endless programs and tough corporate policies intended to keep everyone cyber safe. 

But the attackers are still getting in. In some cases, the very projects designed to keep organizations secure flop or fail outright. This is a difficult experience for everyone involved in the process. Where are organizations making the wrong decisions? What factors contribute to security failure?

Get expert insights here. Help your organization orchestrate successful cyber security infrastructure initiatives, policy implementations, routines, programming, quantitative analyses and more. Read this guide. Discover common security failure points.

1. Bombing Buy-in

When CISOs or CIOs fail to gain buy in ahead of adoption and implementation, the cyber security initiative is liable to fail. Cyber security leaders need to anticipate questions around initiatives, plan for explanations in plain, non-technical language, and be able to speak to any potential risks. Missing the mark when it comes to ensuring that upper-level management expectations are aligned with cyber security changes or programming is a surefire way to fail. 

Cyber security leaders must truly convey what information security means for the bottom line; the core value for the business. Conversely, cyber security experts also need to communicate what its absence, or what the absence of certain infrastructures, programs, processes, and policies, could translate to in terms of lost revenue and brand reputation.

2. Fumbling the funding

The majority of serious cyber security infrastructure initiatives require substantial funding. Inability to procure financial support means that programming is nearly impossible. Alternatively, some cyber security experts may request a small amount of budget at the start of a project, only to request more as the project expands. This can ultimately kill the project, as leaders may not approve enough funding to complete its implementation.

3. Lack of leadership

When CIOs, CTOs, or others responsible for cyber security are preoccupied with other components of the enterprise, cyber security can slip through the cracks. Lack of leadership around cyber security initiatives means that projects will permanently sit on the shelf. 

Projects also hit snags when cyber security leaders retain a specific vision, and yet cyber security specialists are ill-equipped to implement the new strategy or tactics. Effective employee training in new tools, techniques, procedures, policies, and programs is necessary in order for efforts to be successful. 

Some cyber security teams worry that new tools or programs will lead to security failure, and that they will be held responsible. Stagnation around project implementation can occur for this reason. Leaders should take the time to try to allay these concerns. 

Lastly, in smaller businesses, leadership may lack expertise around cyber security. Given today’s sophisticated threat landscape, basic skills allowing for application of anti-virus and mobile security might not be enough. Smaller organizations with limited in-house cyber security expertise may want to consider working with a managed security services provider.

4. Troublesome technologies

Security projects can fail or flop due to inadequate technologies. IT teams and cyber security teams need to thoroughly review and test new tools ahead of large-scale implementation. Compiling a thorough list of questions for security vendors can help organizations ensure that tools will deliver on expectations. 

Alternatively, projects can fail or flop due to inadequate knowledge around how to implement new technologies. 

Industry experts anticipate that through 2025, more than 95% of cloud security failure will occur due to customer management errors. Click To Tweet

In the US, the average cost of a breach exceeds the multi-million mark, making it worth your time to reevaluate your cloud security configuration.

5. New cyber attacks, legacy architecture

Organizations using older architecture might remain at elevated risk of cyber attack. Hackers are now employing sophisticated attack types that evade detection among older security technologies. More specifically, threat actors may use new attack signatures that legacy signature-based malware detection systems cannot catch. If you have a legacy system, reach out to your cyber security vendor about updates or upgrades. 

In other instances, malware detection tools with built-in machine learning capabilities may need to see several new signatures of the same type before registering them as threats. This can be problematic in that the first few threats might make their way past detection tools. Take these types of technologies into account with a layered prevention and defense program. 

Your tech also needs to be able to defend against zero-day attacks, multi-vector attacks and polymorphic strikes, which can take the form of keyloggers, worms, bots or trojans. Can your tools prevent all of these attack types?

6. Inefficiencies 

Cyber security teams can focus on the wrong problem, becoming distracted, which detracts from bigger picture security management. For example, a focus on controls could be problematic if it takes time away from actively monitoring threats. In other cases, organizations grow distracted with implementing and proving that they have security. Instead, they should focus on the more substantive priority; remaining secure.

7. Planning out project scope

One of the fastest ways to send a project spiraling? Failing to plan out how long a given project will take. Information security projects that last until infinity and beyond generate buzz in the worst of ways. 

Mark milestones for your projects. Celebrate the accomplishment of each step. Projects should see consistent progress. Avoid unfulfilled promises and protracted project extensions. Cyber security projects designed in unrealistic ways can hurt business operations.

Projects should be evidence-based. In many cases, project owners do not need to reinvent the wheel. Intensive research, product reviews, customer case study reads and questions to vendors can help anchor teams.

8. Policy enforcement pain points

A Poneman institute survey indicates that American enterprises commonly adopt adequate security policies. However, organizations often remain unable to enforce the policies. When policies remain unenforced, organizations end up perceiving that they have adequate security, despite its true absence. Experts recommend that cyber security teams create consequences for lack of adherence to policies. 

Policy enforcement efforts can take a variety of forms. Organizations can enforce policies through zero trust networks, antivirus software, firewalls, limiting transfers of information to mobile devices and more. Policy enforcement initiatives should not interrupt workflows and should be easy to understand and easy to follow.

9. Cyber security culture

Experts contend that cyber security training and awareness significantly contribute to an organization’s cyber security success. Creating a culture of cyber security can reduce rates of phishing and can potentially lower overall cyber security costs. Humans can be the weakest link, but at the same time, they can also represent an organization’s best defense. 

Comprehensive cyber security awareness programs are easier to implement than you might think. See Cyber Talk’s advanced guide to making cyber security stick and check out our other resources for promoting cyber security among employees. 

Orchestrating organization-wide cyber security awareness initiatives and programming is tough. Employees often complain of boredom, they see activities as meaningless, or they feel too embarrassed to ask basic questions to cyber security experts. However, if planned and executed well, cyber security education can substantially aid organizations in mitigating risk.

10. Too small to target

Over 50% of small enterprises perceive themselves as too insignificant to face a cyber attack. What value would they offer to a threat actor anyway? Among small businesses, cyber security measures are often sparse. Those that do retain cyber security infrastructure may not have enough of it, the tools may be outdated or they may not know who to contact in the event of a threat in-progress.  

More than 40% of small enterprises lack cyber attack prevention know-how. Further, many do not have on-site staff who can assist with cyber security, which complicates efforts to patch, update and otherwise address system issues.

11. Active threat monitoring

Cyber attacks often go unnoticed in the absence of proactive threat monitoring. The average serious security threat lives in systems for more than 200 days prior to detection. Research shows that reduced mean-time to detection translates to lower remediation and clean-up costs. 

Investing in the personnel and tools to actively monitor infrastructure 24/7 can help organizations avoid breaches. Because the cyber threat landscape continues to evolve each day, active threat detection that includes scanning for the latest issues is essential.

12. Missing the measurement step

Unexpected security failure can be prevented through routine evaluation of cyber security systems. Understand how to measure the effectiveness of your cyber security policies, infrastructure, practices and programs. 

Deciding on which measurements to track is tricky. Organizations should take care to track patches and updates. Organizations should also measure response times across a variety of cyber threat types. For example, how long did it take your team to identify a vulnerability or a worm within the system? For more insights on what to measure click here. 

Improved measurement of metrics leads to better overall cyber security outcomes. As the adage goes, you can’t improve what you don’t measure.

13. Too much data

In contrast with the aforementioned issue, some organizations are drowning in data. Organizations with this problem are often using best-of-breed solutions, which provide a milieu of metrics that are often incongruent with one another. Translating all metrics so that they’re mutually intelligible can be extremely time consuming. It also means that cyber security personnel then need to manually identify any anomalies. In short, this makes it difficult to detect a threat or an attack in a timely manner. Cyber security solutions that offer a standardized suite of metrics on a single-pane-of-glass style monitoring tool can help prevent teams from drowning in data. 

In conclusion

Avoiding a security failure is easier than you might think. For more expert insights into effective cyber security strategies, tactics, and security failure prevention, see Cyber Talk’s whitepaper collection. Also, be sure to check out Cyber Talk’s Buyer’s Guides. This content resource center can also be of assistance. Lastly, get premium, forward-looking cyber security and business resources delivered straight to your inbox each week via the Cyber Talk newsletter. 

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