Implementing A SecOps Strategy For Organizational Cyber Resiliency
Jeffrey J. Engle is president of Conquest Cyber, a combat veteran and Purple Heart recipient who served in U.S. Army Special Operations.
Originally published by: Forbes Technology Council | Nov. 07, 2023
As data breaches continue to occur more frequently and with increasingly severe results, organizations that have adopted a solely reactive posture for cybersecurity are finding themselves at ever greater risk.
Cybercriminals are relentless, continually evolving their methods and incorporating advanced technological tools in their efforts to destabilize our way of life. For organizations that are trying to keep their data protected, a similar mindset is needed to maintain a strong cybersecurity posture.
In recent years, many organizations have begun to implement a strategy known as security operations (SecOps) to improve their overall cyber resiliency. SecOps refers to the practice of integrating security measures and processes into the operations of an organization.
SecOps represents a collaborative approach to managing information technology (IT) and cybersecurity—which sounds intuitive but, up until recently, has been uncommon. Historically, organizations’ security and IT operations teams have worked separately, specializing in different parts of the same puzzle but rarely interacting. Predictably, this siloed structure causes organizations to hobble through responding to a security incident instead of reacting as an agile cross-functional team against cyberattacks.
Implementing A SecOps Strategy
Bringing together these two departments enables improved communication and cooperation between groups with similar skill sets. A unified SecOps team manages the tools that enhance an organization’s ability to detect, respond to and mitigate security threats quickly and effectively. In addition, the team develops and executes an ongoing, proactive plan to identify systemic vulnerabilities and fortify existing cyber defenses.
As with any other major organizational decision, the successful integration of a SecOps cybersecurity strategy begins by getting the buy-in of company leaders. This can’t just be a symbolic gesture; this type of structural change requires an ongoing financial investment to cover technology, staffing, training and incident response efforts.
An effective SecOps strategy should include several key elements:
Organizations should conduct a thorough assessment of their current level of cyber readiness, identifying any vulnerabilities, risks or areas in need of improvement. This assessment can serve as a baseline for an organization’s SecOps strategy. When assembling a SecOps team, it should include individuals with expertise in cybersecurity, IT operations and risk management. It’s vital that this team has clear access to company leaders and other stakeholders to communicate any areas of concern.
2. Monitoring And Threat Detection
This involves continuous monitoring of network traffic, systems and applications to detect security anomalies and potential threats. Some commonly used tools include:
- Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS): Scan network traffic for suspicious activity.
- Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS): Collect information about the activity, attempt to block it and alert the appropriate personnel.
- Security Information And Event Management (SIEM): Provides a more comprehensive picture of a network’s overall security and can take automated action in some cases.
3. Incident Response
SecOps teams are responsible for developing and implementing a well-defined incident response plan that outlines how an organization will react to security incidents. This includes identifying and classifying incidents, containing them, mitigating their impact and recovering from them.
Crucially, this also involves implementing corrective actions to prevent similar incidents in the future. Because the security landscape is constantly evolving, SecOps teams must be endlessly adaptable, changing their strategies and tools to stay ahead of new and evolving threats.
4. Vulnerability Management
As part of maintaining a proactive cybersecurity posture, a SecOps team must regularly assess its organization’s systems, applications and infrastructure to identify vulnerabilities. The team goes about this by conducting vulnerability scans, penetration testing and risk assessments to pinpoint weaknesses that attackers could exploit. The goal is to reduce the organization’s attack surface by systematically targeting and neutralizing those security risks.
5. Access Control
An organization’s SecOps team implements strong access control mechanisms to ensure that only authorized users within the organization have access to sensitive systems and data. This includes managing user accounts, only giving individual users access to data that directly impacts their role, and using multifactor authentication (MFA) to bolster identity verification.
6. Security Awareness And Training
Without the active participation of employees and other organizational stakeholders, the effectiveness of even the most proactive cybersecurity efforts can be severely curtailed.
A crucial piece of a SecOps team’s role is to educate individuals within the organization about security best practices, policies and procedures. Security awareness programs help individuals recognize the telltale signs of common attacks like phishing and understand their role in maintaining a secure environment. Ongoing training sessions help keep cybersecurity top of mind, ensuring that employees are aware of evolving threats and how to respond to them.
In addition, and of equal importance, the SecOps team helps ensure that its organization complies with any relevant industry regulations and standards. Team members assess and manage risks to protect the organization’s assets and reputation.
While incorporating a SecOps approach is an ongoing process requiring dedication and collaboration, it can unquestionably help organizations be more resilient and better prepared to protect their digital assets and sensitive data.
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