May 29, 2018

3 Crucial Elements of an Effective Security Operations Program

by: Align

The barrage of threats and vulnerabilities that pose a risk to your organization is never-ending. To bolster your business' security efforts, you need visibility into risk indicators, real-time threat detection and incident response.

Not only do the aforementioned capabilities help your investment firm determine when an attack begins, but also where it is coming from and any systems that may have been compromised. To effectively defend your organization from cyber attacks, it’s imperative that your company implement a security operations program that includes network security monitoring, vulnerability management and penetration testing.

Network Security Monitoring

Within the scope of complex IT infrastructure—comprised of network devices, phones, IoT devices, web servers and applications—there lies a vast risk terrain. Monitoring network traffic for anomalous behavior is crucial to protecting your environment. Vulnerabilities and gaps in security are ever-present.

Proactive network monitoring tools help you to mitigate risks with quantifiable results, as well as provide a baseline of normal network traffic. Determining this baseline allows security analysts to identify patterns in abnormal traffic, often an indicator of advanced persistent threats, and hunt down suspicious network anomalies. This not only makes the investigative process simpler, but it enables your team to make actionable decisions towards resolution. 

Vulnerability Management

As the technology landscape of your organization evolves and networks change over time, performing a one-time vulnerability assessment is insufficient as new, high and critical vulnerabilities arise daily. Many organizations perform scans on an annual basis, and if vulnerabilities arise between scans, businesses remain at risk during that interval.

A full vulnerability diagnosis of your entire IT infrastructure should be performed regularly. Continuous scanning allows you to detect vulnerabilities faster, decreasing overall risk exposure.

Vulnerability management begins with the identification and prioritization of risks, in which they may be classified as low, critical or high. With vulnerability management tools that provide comprehensive risk scores, you can more easily prioritize how and when to address vulnerabilities. Once risks have been prioritized, you can then decide if it is feasible to remediate risks at hand.

Remediation may require upgrades or reconfiguration. In some cases it may not be possible to remediate risks. For instance, if a legacy application relies on an old version of Java, upgrading may break the application entirely. In this case, your business needs to make a decision whether to keep an application that poses a risk, or if it should be removed entirely. 

Penetration testing

After vulnerabilities have been assessed and remediated, it’s time to truly put your infrastructure to the test by exploiting those very vulnerabilities with penetration testing.  Unlike vulnerability management, penetration testing should not be performed often, as many things can go awry during testing and exploitation.

Pen testing should be scoped (i.e., network versus application) and should only be applied to specific systems. If vulnerabilities are successfully exploited, you can determine points of exposure that need to be revisited for remediation.

Additionally, on the systems that have been successfully exploited, it is possible to launch further exploits on other resources, to determine the security level that an attacker can reach and what information they could potentially access and exfiltrate.

A rigid or weak security posture cannot stand up to emerging threats. This makes each of the discussed program components integral and mutually exclusive to achieving a successful security operations program.

Align Risk CSR – Continuous Scanning and Reporting

Align’s Risk CSR provides a holistic view of your environment, with continuous vulnerability reporting tools to aggregate data, analyze threats, and allow you to mitigate risks to your organization. With Align's proprietary risk algorithm you can determine how your company’s risk compares with global industry risk, computed in real-time. 

Speak to an Align Cybersecurity expert today to learn more or visit here.

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Cyber Lock. Image Credit: Align

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“Align is our trusted provider for all our Managed Services and cybersecurity needs. They provide us best-in-class IT services that not only help drive productivity and growth, but ensure we meet both current and evolving compliance and security requirements with ease. As consultants to financial advisors, trust and reliability are indispensable to our operations, which is why we never hesitate to refer Align to our very own client base. Align isn’t just our partner, they are an extension of our team. We look forward to entrusting them with our IT infrastructure for years to come.”

Ed Fasano - Experienced Advisory Consultants LLC