Cyber Security Best Practices in 2021: How to Do More With Less

Organisations around the world are connected like never before. They’re using networked systems and applications to collaborate with customers, partners, and employees, as well as store data. While this digital transformation supports growth and innovation, it can also increase exposure to cyber threats.

According to IBM, the average cost of a data breach in 2021 was $4.21 million globally, the highest in 17 years.1 In addition to the financial implications, organisations can also face regulatory fines, reduced consumer trust, and potential legal ramifications in the event of a breach. Fortunately, these risks can be mitigated with effective cyber security measures. 

Developing a strong cyber security strategy that’s adequately budgeted for and deploys the best security practices can protect your data and systems from cyber-attacks. Your strategy needs to be comprehensive in order to counter both internal and external threats, and needs to address critical infrastructure, network, applications, cloud, end-users, data, and disaster recovery.

This article will look at some best practices organisations can deploy in order to protect themselves from cyber-attacks in 2021. Let’s get started. 

Suggested reading: For more on the potential financial consequences of a data breach, check out our blog — The Financial Impact of a Data Breach in 2021

Spend doesn’t equal success

One crucial factor in ensuring strong cyber security is budgeting. This can be challenging, particularly if you don’t understand the threat landscape and your system’s vulnerabilities. Bear in mind that more investment doesn’t necessarily amount to better cyber security, considering that only 36% of UK companies are confident that they’re getting the best value from their investment.2

A study by PwC found that confidence in current cyber budgets in the UK is low.3 Up to 53% of UK organisations lack confidence in their current ability to ensure strategic, data-driven, and risk-aligned budgeting. As a result, up to 40% of cyber security executives say they are looking to try new budgeting processes.

Many organisations now understand that it’s possible to do more with less — they’re quantifying their cyber risks and leveraging data to make sound decisions. 

Best practices in 2021

With that in mind, it’s vital to find the right balance between budgeting and implementing the right security strategies. Mapping your securing threats against potential threats is critical, and 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. Organisations lose $1,797,945 per minute to cyber security incidents, with a cyber-attack occurring roughly every 39 seconds.4 

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 cyber security 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. So, you need to be agile and flexible to fight unknown risks, and the right level of risk appetite can help you do just that.

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2. Spend in the right areas

For most organisations, the cyber security budget is a percentage of the IT budget, often varying from 5 to 20 per cent. 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 cyber security strategy.

You need to identify the key areas your budget should cover, including critical training, infrastructure, data, and awareness. Additionally, 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 strategise effectively for the future. Be sure to train your employees adequately and create and implement a cyber security 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. Plus, a complex technology infrastructure that contains too many moving parts can be costly to manage. 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
  • Anti-virus software
  • Wireless network security appliances
  • An 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.

Want to learn more? Read What is MDR?

4. Focus on outcomes and opportunities

Cyber-attacks 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 cyber security 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.

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 ensure 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 cyber security investment.

5. Use strategic partners

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

  • Developing and implementing an effective cyber security strategy
  • Procuring IT infrastructure and installing your hardware
  • Implementing training programs 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

The cyber security best practices highlighted above can help you secure your systems and data in 2021 and beyond. You need to implement them properly while considering your budget to ensure a robust and potent security strategy. 

At Six Degrees, we help clients manage their cyber security needs as well as protect their data, network infrastructure, cloud platforms, and digital workspaces. Our managed cloud services go above and beyond your expectations, giving you access to strategic experts and industry-leading protection for enhanced security outcomes.

If you’re looking for an MSP that will be there for you throughout your journey, schedule a call today to discuss your cyber security needs and challenges further.

Additional reading: To learn more about our outlook on cyber security, take a look at our blog — The Six Degrees Approach to Cyber Security

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