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Are You Worried That You Aren’t Completely Secure?

When it comes to protecting against the ongoing, evolving cybersecurity threats in play today, managing cybersecurity is, understandably, a tall order.

Are You Completely Secure?

The CIS Top 20 Critical Security Controls Solutions have been developed to help address and secure every potential risk in an organization’s IT environment. If you’re worried you may have overlooked a key aspect of your cybersecurity, then double-check it against these 20 controls solutions.

When it comes to protecting against the ongoing, evolving cybersecurity threats in play today, managing cybersecurity is, understandably, a tall order.

In order for you to effectively fill the role of an IT company, you would need…

  • The knowledge of how to select, install, manage and maintain increasingly complex IT security systems (such as SIEM, which we explore in further detail below). Do you have that kind of know-how?
  • The time to both maintain systems on an ongoing basis and respond to events as they occur.  If you can’t afford to make IT your full-time job, then do you really think you can stay on top of it?

To start, managing your cybersecurity means you need to take a holistic approach, incorporating and considering every aspect of a truly secure environment.

How can you go about that?

With the right technology (such as SIEM) and the right best practices (such as the CIS Top 20 Critical Security Controls Solutions) …

What Is SIEM?

Security information and event management (SIEM) technology provide a secure cloud service that provides 24/7 security and operation monitoring to oversee a given business’ security needs.

A SIEM solution offers a monitoring service, with adaptive threat protection that identifies active cyber attacks and takes action in real-time to protect your business.

By integrating intelligence from global threat monitoring feeds, this solution responds to network-based zero-day exploit attempts, drive-by downloads, and advanced malware that routinely bypass conventional firewall and antivirus technologies.

Further features of most SIEM products include:

  • Termination of communications with blacklisted or untrusted remote sites.
  • Continuous monitoring of and protection against new or abnormal user activity on your networks and systems.
  • Automatic shutdown of your critical systems to stop active cyber attacks when necessary.
  • Real-time notifications of any significant network activity with automatic remedial actions.
  • Ongoing access to a dedicated cybersecurity expert that’s available on-demand to address and resolve your security concerns as need be.

Sounds good, right?

However, as discussed above, there is a key issue with SIEM implementation – it’s not enough on its own. You need to combine it with the right best practices…

What Are The CIS Top 20 Critical Security Controls Solutions?

Developed by leading cybersecurity experts, the CIS Top 20 Critical Security Controls Solutions

are a set of best practices designed to help organizations protect themselves against the

current range of cybercrime threats.

The 20 Controls are as follows:

1. Inventory And Control Of Hardware Assets

A key aspect of cybersecurity is knowing what hardware is connected to your network, and what shouldn’t be. If you maintain an accurate inventory of authorized and unauthorized devices on your network, you’re better prepared to identify when something connects that shouldn’t have.

Key Tips

  • Don’t forget to scan your network for Internet Of Things devices. Wearables and “smart” technology are easy to overlook, but it can still access network data, and therefore, still be a risk.
  • Think about adding a detective control, especially for secondary networks, such as those committed to backup, VoIP or network device management, as they are often popular and easy target for hackers.

2. Inventory Of Critical Software Assets

This goes hand in hand with control #1. Just as you need to know what type of hardware is connected to your network, you also need to know what software is in use, what permissions it has, and if they come with any identified vulnerabilities.

Key Tips

  • Don’t provide local administrator access to users that don’t need it. This one seems like a no brainer, but it’s more common than you’d think. Giving admin privileges to the wrong person can allow them to install unauthorized software.
  • Keep your software up to date. Patches and updates are key in an effective cybersecurity posture, as they protect you against vulnerabilities that the vendor themselves have identified.

3. Continuous Vulnerability Management

The key to this control is understanding that cybersecurity is never at rest. There is no technology, no training program for staff members, and no set of static best practices that will protect you from now until the end of time.
Day by day, cybercriminals are working to update their methodology, identify new vulnerabilities in the technology you use and the way you use it. That’s why it’s vital for you to stay up to date on how cybercrime tactics are changing and what you can do to stay secure.

Key Tips

4. Controlled Use of Administrative Privilege

The fact is that misuse of privilege is often one of the most common ways for cybercriminals to penetrate a network. Either by tricking a user with administrative privileges to download and run malware, or by elevating privileges on a compromised non-admin account, hackers regularly make use of this highly common unsafe business practice.

Key Tips

  • Eliminating this vulnerability can be achieved in two ways:
    • Limiting administrative privileges to those who actually require it. The fact is that the common business user should not require administrative privileges to do their job – whether that’s for installing software, printing, using common programs, etc.
    • Protecting administrative accounts. Once you’ve limited privileges to only a few members of the organization, make sure their accounts have the right protections in place – complex, long passwords, multi-factor authentication, configure alerts for unsuccessful log-ins, and limit administrative actions to devices that are air-gapped from unnecessary aspects of your network.

5. Secure Configurations for Hardware and Software on Mobile Devices, Laptops, Workstations, and Servers

You know you shouldn’t trust default security settings, right? Just because a program is generally considered to follow standard security practices, that doesn’t mean that it’s as secure as it should be “out of the box”.

Why aren’t default hardware and software security configurations enough?

Because greater security often means less convenience – albeit, in small ways. Regardless, when it comes to most products, the priority is usually to enhance the user experience, rather than to configure the best security settings possible.

Here’s an example – when it comes to Wi-Fi connectivity settings, would you prioritize security or convenience? On one hand, it’s much more convenient to users if the device in question is configured to automatically connect to open and available Wi-Fi hot spots. But as you should know, that’s not a very secure practice.

It’s examples like these that show why it’s your responsibility to double-check default configurations and make the necessary changes if you actually want to maintain a higher level of security.

Key Tips

  • Create and securely store master images (also known as gold images) of your configurations that can’t be altered.
  • Remote administrative actions should only take place via secure channels, and ideally, on a separate administrative network.
  • Double-check that your images are not being altered without authorization by implementing a file integrity checking tool, or application whitelisting tool.

6. Maintenance, Monitoring, and Analysis of Audit Logs

One of the most importance aspect of cybersecurity management is the careful use of the logging system, which will allow you to record nearly any type of event that occurs so you can keep a detailed account of how your systems are performing, as well as manipulate the logs to retrieve the information that you require for a given task.

Ensuring you can sort and read the logs collected by your system will allow you to gain actionable and understandable intel about any and all security events that occur. Ideally, your SIEM solution will collect logs from the following parts of your network and infrastructure:

  • Network gear
    • Switches
    • Routers
    • Firewalls
    • Wireless Controllers and their APs
  • 3rd Party Security support platforms
    • Web proxy and filtration
    • Anti-malware solutions
    • Endpoint Security platforms (HBSS, EMET)
    • Identity Management solutions
    • IDS/IPS
  • Servers
    • Application servers
    • Database servers
    • Web Servers
    • File Servers
  • Workstations
    • All security log files

7. Email And Web Browser Protections

Email is perhaps the most ubiquitous technology used in the business world today – possibly even more so than the phone. It’s instantaneous, can deliver important files, and doesn’t require the immediate attention that a phone call does.

However, just as it is popular with consumers around the world, it is just as popular a method for hackers trying to do damage to unsuspecting businesses.

Similarly, your staff uses a web browser to access online applications, perform Google searched, and a range of other tasks every day. It needs a similar level of security as well.

Key Tips

  • Content Filtering is a key consideration in both your email client and your web browser. Nothing should make it into an employee inbox, and no web page should be accessible to an employee without first passing through a filter that can eliminate any identified threats.
  • Clicking on links that appear in random emails just isn’t safe. Hyperlinks are commonly used to lead unsuspecting employees to phishing and malware websites. Be sure to only click links when they’re from a confirmed, expected source, and when they aren’t part of a sales pitch, or an attempt to get information from you.
  • Suspicious email attachments from unknown or untrustworthy senders are the most common source of malware, ransomware, and other digital threats. Even if it’s from a friend or colleague, consider the message they send along with it:
    • Is it worded properly?
    • Does it sound like it’s from them?
  • It’s always a smart move to call the sender or speak in person if possible to confirm that they sent the email. Otherwise, simply delete it until you can be sure of its authenticity.
    • Manage a safe sender’s list. No matter how new, or costly, or flashy your current spam filter is, it won’t keep unwanted spam out of your inbox forever. Whenever you see that a spammer’s email has made it past your filter, take a moment to block it so that it won’t happen again. Furthermore, make sure to only open emails from confirmed contacts.
    • Email encryption measures are easy to use and make sure that the user’s communication is secured against unwelcome readers while in transit. Furthermore, mobile device capability will allow users to read and send encrypted messages from the mobile platform without having to store the message locally, or any unnecessary battery or bandwidth usage.

8. Malware Defenses

Malware remains among the top cyber threats that businesses face today. As malware types like ransomware continue to become more prevalent, it’s more important than ever for businesses of all sizes to be aware of what threats are out there, and which specific threats they need to be the most concerned about.

Key Tips

  • Antivirus and antimalware software should be used in conjunction with a firewall, encryption, data backup, and other IT strategies to provide defense against malware, adware, spyware, and ransomware.

    Each of these cybercriminal tactics has the potential to do immense damage to your internal processes and your company’s reputation. The job of these types of software is to spot, block, and isolate intrusive, malicious applications so they can’t do damage to your data and legitimate software.

9. Limitation and Control of Ports, Protocols, and Services

It’s critical that you effectively manage all the ports, protocols and services on devices that are connected to your network. If you don’t, each and every one of them could be a viable means of access for cybercriminals.

If you have detailed, real-time data on what is running on your network, and are careful to close off any unnecessary means of communication, you can drastically reduce your risk of penetration.

Key Tips

  • Before installing new software, scan its baseline ports, and then do so again after installation. Compare the results to doublecheck which ports are actually required.
  • Host-based firewalls on your servers should be used in conjunction with whitelists to only allow communication between aspects of the systems.
  • Gain a high-level view and complete control of your exposure by scanning the ports of your infrastructure – this is your baseline. At any time after the fact, you can compare it with the results of a test scan to double-check what additional ports are in use. If there is a discrepancy, you can then investigate to find out why, and address any potential risks.

10. Data Recovery Capabilities

Data loss is often the result of poor digital security; without the right defenses, cybercriminals can easily infect an IT system with ransomware or other types of malware and compromise company data.

You may have heard that the right antimalware solution will minimize the chance of data loss, but what about human error?

The fact is that data loss due to user-based exploits and human error — whether it’s an overwritten file or an accidentally deleted folder –and more frequent and often just as dangerous as most other forms of cybercrime, and no matter how effective your antimalware solution is, it won’t protect you from yourself.

Key Tips

  • Make sure your data is backed up on a regular basis – at least weekly.
  • Test your backups on a regular basis, running a full data restoration process to make sure you have a contingency in the event of a real crisis.
  • Protect your backups with physical and digital security. Local hard drive backups should be under lock and key, and secured with encryption.

11. Secure Configurations for Network Devices
This control covers devices such as firewalls, routers, and switches. As key aspects of your network (and the defense of your network), these devices need to be configured properly to make sure optimal security.

As explored above, the default configurations of such devices may not be sufficient. It’s up to you to make sure they are made secure.

Key Tips

  • Keep these devices configurations in line with secure configurations defined for each type of network device in use by your organization.
  • Make use of automated tools in order to verify standard device configurations, as well as to detect any unauthorized changes that are made.
  • Implement multi-factor authentication and encryption for all network devices.
  • Keep all network devices up to date and patched.
  • Segment administrative tasks and elevated access to machines dedicated for that use. As mentioned above, such devices should be air-gapped from unnecessary parts of the network when possible.

12. Boundary Defense

This control is built on a foundation of network segmentation and control of the flow of data within your organization. Using firewalls and proxies, you can cut off unnecessary connections between different parts of your network that, if left open, provide easy access from one to another for cybercriminals.

Key Tips

  • Set up a DMZ (a demilitarized zone) between your internal network and the Internet, so that attackers cannot easily pivot between systems.
  • Monitor and track any remote access to your network that is required as a part of the work your staff does. Configuration policies for such access should be regularly scanned to double-check that patches are applied and everything is up to date.

13. Data Protection

Data protection begins and ends with the consideration of managerial controls. That is, what type of data you have, how it is classified or categorized, and what can or cannot be done with said data – by anyone in the organization, including its leaders.

This is why you need a data inventory, which will help with understanding the nature of your environment and the systems therein, as well as how to define effective data retention policies.

Key Tips

  • Work from the top down in the organization to make sure best practices are followed in terms of managerial controls. Enacting such policies can be difficult when it comes to leadership, but these members of the organization need to understand that they are a part of the business’ cybersecurity culture.
  • Implement procedural and technical controls to block unnecessary access to data, such as by USB mass storage devices, as well as webmail and file transfer websites.

14. Controlled Access Based On The Need to Know

Again, this control examines how different parts of your infrastructure are accessible by one another. The fact is that cybercriminals often gain access to sensitive data by first breaking into a much less critical part of the network. If those two parts were properly segmented via a DMZ, firewall, etc., they wouldn’t be able to.

Key Tips

  • Classify your data in a simple manner for easy organization:
    • Level 1: Data for public consumption. Data that may be freely disclosed.
    • Level 2: Internal data not for public disclosure.
    • Level 3: Sensitive internal data that if disclosed, could affect the company.
    • Level 4: Highly sensitive corporate, employee and customer data.
  • Maintain an inventory of who has access to which levels of data, and audit why that is necessary for the function of their role in the organization.
  • Keep track of “stale data” – that is, data that hasn’t be accessed in some time. It should be archived and removed from your systems.

15. Wireless Access Control

Wi-Fi is a necessary part of doing business. Your staff cannot go without it, so it becomes your responsibility to make sure it’s secured, simple as that.

Key Tips

  • Turn off broadcast so that your SSID is not available for others to see.
  • Use WPA2-Enterprise security, which forces per-user authentication via RADIUS for access.
  • Double-check your radio broadcast levels at default to make sure they don’t extend outside your building.
  • Create a Guest Network that’s segmented and has a limited bandwidth so that those visiting your building don’t have any chance of access to your data.
  • Monitor your network, and log events to track any activity by your employees and other contacts with network access.

16. Account Monitoring and Control

This is one of the more basic controls on the list, but no less important. It can’t really be automated or outsourced to any technological aids; it’s just about doing the work.

You need to have a carefully implemented process to track the lifecycle of accounts on your network.

Key Tips

  • Follow a careful system for how accounts are created for new members, how their security is maintained and verified through their life, and how they are removed when no longer needed.
  • Implement secure configuration settings (complex passwords, multi-factor authentication, etc.) for all accounts.
  • Implement controls for login and use, such as lockouts for too many unsuccessful logins, unsuccessful login alerts, and automatic log-off after a period of inactivity

17. Implement A Security Awareness and Training Program

Organizations are often at risk based on the weakest links in their cybersecurity – poorly trained employees. That’s why continuous training with a variety of different methodologies is necessary in order to have employees be knowledgeable and aware.

Security awareness training helps users to recognize and avoid being victimized by phishing emails and scam websites. They learn how to handle security incidents when they occur. If users are informed about what to watch for, how to block attempts and where they can turn for help, this alone is worth the investment.

Key Tips

  • Make sure your staff knows how to identify and address suspicious emails, phishing attempts, social engineering tactics, and more.
  • Implement training that shows how to use business technology without exposing data and other assets to external threats by accident.
  • Test your staff on how to respond when they suspect that an attack is occurring or has occurred.

18. Application Software Security

Depending on how many different programs you use for your operations, and how specialized they are, they could pose a risk to your systems based on unidentified vulnerabilities or lack of support. As with so many other controls on this list, this is all about making sure that you have a clear, high-level view of what is in use, and the state it is in.

Key Tips

  • Make sure that third-party software is still supported by the vendor, and double-check what its lifecycle is.
  • Use a web application firewall to inspect traffic for common vulnerabilities.
  • Regular test your internally developed software for errors and vulnerabilities.
  • Use a web application scanner to test all software on at least a monthly basis.
  • Segregate production and development environments for internally developed software.

19. Incident Response and Management

An Incident Response Plan provides the plans, procedures, and guidelines for the handling of data breach events at our office(s), or via any of your servers or mobile devices. The plan encompasses procedures on incident response engagement and how the incident response team will communicate with the rest of the organization, with other organizations, with law enforcement and provides guidance on federal and local reporting notifications processes.

This plan is necessary to clarify the roles and responsibilities of your employees so you can quickly mitigate risks, reduce the organization’s attack surface, contain and remediate an attack, and minimize overall potential losses.

There are three main components of an incident response plan: technical, legal, and managerial.

As part of your plan, designate specific, skilled people who are best positioned to cover those functions. Make sure you answer the following questions:

  • What information does each component need?
  • What should you expect from each component?
  • What’s the chain of command?
  • To whom does the team report?
  • Who has the authority to make judgment calls as to when the computer networks will be taken down, quarantined, or put back online?

Double-check that your legal, technical, and management experts approve of your incident response plan. And make sure your response team regularly reviews and practices the plan.

20. Penetration Tests And Red Team Exercises

The last control on the list is one of the most important. After all, no matter how carefully you follow the prior 19 controls, you’ll never know how effective they are if you don’t test them.
The penetration test is an authorized attack on your organization’s technology and staff and is one of the best ways to accurately evaluate your security controls. In combination with a red team exercise (in which a full-scope attack simulation is executed to test organizational security), you can double-check each and every aspect of your cybersecurity posture.

Running an effective penetration test and red team exercises all come down to goals. Before undertaking one of the test processes, answer the following questions:

  • Do you want to test external or internal defenses?
  • Do you want to test employee security knowledge and capabilities via red team social engineering simulations?
  • Do you want to target a specific section of your network?
  • Are there any systems that should not be targeted in the test?

Can You Manage SIEM And Implement The 20 Critical Security Controls Solutions On Your Own?

Probably not – that’s why it’s smart to enlist expert support.

After all, every trade has its role in a given industry. Glaziers cut and install the glass, electricians handle the wiring and electrical components, concrete finishers lay the concrete, etc.

You wouldn’t expect one to fulfill the role of another, right?

It just makes sense that when it comes to specialized work, you’d want to hire specialists, trained and certified, to be the ones making use of the tools of their trade. Don’t you think that makes sense for cybersecurity and the implementation these 20 security controls solutions as well?

What’s The #1 Problem With SIEM Technology?

In a nutshell? Businesses that invest in SIEM may try to handle it on their own – and fail.

As explored above those operating a business likely don’t have the time or knowledge to properly make use of SIEM.

It becomes a wasted investment, and in the end, doesn’t help to enhance security for the business. That’s why SIEM is incomplete without SOC services…

What Are SOC Services?

A Security Operations Center (SOC) is a team of people, employing a range of proven processes and using carefully implemented technologies (such as SIEM) which are often centralized, and that – at the very least – gather and analyze user reports and a range of data sources – such as logs — from information systems and cybersecurity controls.

Typically, the main point of a SOC in the business setting is to identify, address and eliminate cybersecurity events that could negatively impact an organization’s information systems or data.

Depending on a number of factors – size, budget, industry, location, etc. — SOCs can vary from organization to organization and are implemented per structural cybersecurity priorities and risk tolerance.

Whereas one business’ SOC will oversee a cybersecurity event from detection to remediation, another may instead focus on supporting and coordinating incident responders and handling incident response communication, which could mean status updates and third-party communication.

The point of outsourced SOC services is that users don’t have to develop and manage as SOC of their own – they can instead get it from an IT company as an outsourced service.

When you don’t have SOC services, you don’t have any of the visibility into your systems, unless you happen to be looking at that server at that same time. For example, you may not be able to notice that your CPU was working much harder than normal, in the event of a cyberattack.

Is SIEM Worth It If You Don’t Also Have SOC?

Probably not.

In theory, it’s entirely possible that, if you’ve invested in the right technologies (such as a SIEM solution), and have the right skillset provided by an internal team, you could handle cybersecurity for your business all on your own.

You would oversee your own installations, management, maintenance, and everything else that comes to with operating a secure and robust business IT environment.

But, if we’re being honest, that’s a big if.

For all these reasons, it’s recommended that business owners simply outsource their cybersecurity management tasks to a more capable, more available SOC service and IT company.

Doing so will also guarantee a level of quality and consistency in management and maintenance of your cybersecurity technologies and best practices that likely can’t be achieved by you or someone on your staff trying to manage it all on their own.

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