How Do Your Cyber Exposure Practices Stack Up to Those of Your Peers?

Kevin Flynn

In part five of our six-part blog series, we explore the challenges facing organizations as they try to accurately answer the question: “How do we compare to our peers?” Here’s what you need to know.

Achieving visibility into your organization’s attack surface is the fundamental first step to building a mature cybersecurity strategy. Once you’ve laid a strong foundation for your Cyber Exposure efforts, the next step is developing an understanding of how your strategy compares to other organizations in your industry. 

The discipline of Cyber Exposure depends on your ability to accurately answer four key questions

  • Where are we exposed? 
  • How should we prioritize based on risk?
  • How are we reducing our exposure over time?
  • How do we compare to our peers?
  • Answering the last of these essential questions involves determining your company’s ranking amongst its peers in a competitive assessment of your defenses. Knowing where your company stands within your industry sector is crucial to developing an accurate understanding of the real-world potential for any threat to affect your operations.

    For example, let’s say news breaks of a major headline vulnerability like Meltdown and Spectre. When your C-level executives are looking for answers about how your organization might be affected, knowing whether your company is easy prey or an impenetrable fortress compared to others will enable you to assess your real-world risk. 

    That’s not the only reason to keep up with your peers. Having data about the Cyber Exposure status of others in your industry also helps you evaluate your past spends on cybersecurity and validate your future investments. A no-nonsense, no guesswork, data-driven approach can help you eliminate waste, fortify weak areas of your strategy and address any C-level resistance to your cybersecurity budget requests.

    Achieving Industry-wide Cyber Exposure Benchmarks

    Achieving an accurate picture of how your Cyber Exposure strategy stacks up against that of your peers is easier said than done, however. It requires the following:

    • Industry data which is aggregated and anonymized to prevent re-identification in reverse engineering attempts. 
    • Massive amounts of high quality data, drawn from thousands of organizations, in order to achieve reliable industry benchmarks
    • Advanced risk-based Cyber Exposure scoring, so you can weigh vulnerabilities, threat data and each asset’s business value and criticality.

    Access to this level of detail gives you the guidance you need to optimize your security processes 
and investments within the right business context. Indeed, context is everything in making solid security assessments. If a comparative ranking with industry peers finds you in the bottom quartile, you probably need to commit more budget and resources to come up to industry standard and achieve average protections. If your company ranks in the top quartile, you may not need to increase your budget and resources as much as you may have thought. 

    Ultimately, your decisions should be based on data which allows you to:

    • Visualize. The ability to see the entirety of your modern attack surface — including your IT and operational technology (OT) infrastructure — allows anyone, from analyst to executive, to quickly understand which threats you’re facing.
    • Analyze. Advanced analysis and risk-based exposure scoring allows you to weighs vulnerabilities, threats, asset value and location, enabling you to prioritize the vulnerabilities you need to focus on first.
    • Measure. The ability to benchmark and compare your efforts against other organizations enables you to optimize your security processes 
and investments.

    We recognize that every organization is at its own level of maturity in its Cyber Exposure journey. In fact, the Tenable Research report Cyber Defender Strategies: What Your Vulnerability Assessment Practices Reveal shows that only 5 percent of enterprises follow the most mature, Diligent style of vulnerability management, while another 43 percent are practicing the Investigative style, which indicates a medium to high level of maturity. The majority (52 percent) of the 2,100 organizations studied for the report fall into mid- to low-maturity styles. This suggests most folks are still working on getting the basics right. Ultimately, though, the ability to present a full and accurate picture of the threat landscape for business stakeholders requires the right data.

    Indeed, in a panel discussion about headline vulnerabilities at Tenable’s Edge 2019 user conference in May, Ramin Lamei, VP of Cloud Delivery for Global Payments, noted: “The job of a security practitioner is to make sure we’re arming our CISO with the right information, the right metrics where he can really be external-facing with the C-suite and his peers to continue really messaging the value or the importance of security and risk. If you’re not already very mature with your metrics and the way you report, and having the lateral process within the IT teams and other organizations, I think it’s critical. It’s a constant message that we have to continue to feed up to make sure the information is accurate and communicated at all levels...reiterating the risk and the challenges that we could face.”

    Without the context made possible through industry benchmarking, you’re only telling part of the story. Achieving accurate benchmarking against your peers requires a living, breathing scoring system — one that evolves along with the threats that are out there — with data aggregated from a wide range of sources, including:

    • The age of the vulnerability
    • Exploit kit availability
    • Chatter on the Dark Web
    • Past threat patterns (e.g., evidence of exploitation in the past - how recent? how frequent?)
    • Past threat sources (e.g., specific sources showing evidence of exploitation)
    • Vulnerability metrics (CVSS metrics such as access vector, attack complexity, base score, etc)
    • Vulnerability metadata (age of vulnerability, CVE, vendor/software impacted by the vulnerability, etc)
    • Exploit availability using threat intelligence data (is the vulnerability on Exploit Database? Metasploit?

    Tenable is committed to helping its customers achieve a comprehensive, data-driven approach to Cyber Exposure by offering tools such as Predictive Prioritization, the Vulnerability Priority Rating and Lumin.

    Learn more

    Read the complete Cyber Exposure blog series:

    Read more >

    Published on Jul 8, 2019

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