Your Guide to Understanding Cybersecurity Frameworks

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Implementing cybersecurity is one of the most important steps you can take to protect your business from attacks. Modern tactics are ever-evolving, and it can be challenging to keep up with best practices. That’s where having the right framework comes in.

Cybersecurity frameworks provide clear guidelines and security controls for what businesses should be doing to protect themselves and their clients, and national and international organizations have created theirs with various types of businesses in mind. Whether you run a small family company or a large agency that is crucial to national security, it is important to understand the information your security program is telling you and how to use it for proper cybersecurity risk management.  

What Are Cybersecurity Frameworks?

Both large and small business owners should be taking advantage of cybersecurity programs and cybersecurity frameworks to protect their businesses. The terms can get confusing, so here’s a little more about this process.

Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is a blanket term for the variety of programs used to protect users’ digital devices and online data from online threats. Some of the most common cybersecurity programs include: 

  • Network security
  • Application security
  • Information security
  • Operational security
  • Disaster recovery

The main purposes include identifying possible threats, blocking threats from accessing the user’s computer or digital data, and responding to successful attacks by removing malware or viruses from computers.    

Cybersecurity Frameworks

Cybersecurity frameworks are documents that identify the steps business owners and organizations’ management teams should be taking to protect their computers and online data. These lists of best practices generally come from cybersecurity standard organizations, such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), that are leaders in advancing cybersecurity techniques. 

The information included in such frameworks largely depends on the nature and size of a business, although some apply to all types of businesses — and all represent critical security controls.  

How Cybersecurity and Frameworks Work Together

Security policies provide a high level of protection for business environments when used properly, but many company owners do not understand how to interpret the data the solutions provide. Following national and international organizations’ guidelines mean these owners can gain a higher level of understanding of: 

  • The specific threats and vulnerabilities their businesses are most likely to face
  • The standards they are required to follow to protect their data 
  • The standards they are required to follow to protect their customers’ data 
  • How to identify their current levels of compliance

Understanding the components that go into a cybersecurity framework can make this process even easier for business owners. 

Cybersecurity Framework Components

There are five basic components in information security management systems, and each also identifies a main process that proper protection addresses. The five parts that form each of the international standards include: 

  • Identifying each point where a business may be vulnerable to cyber threats, such as IT assets, data, and other resources
  • Protecting the business through access control, data security, and other preventative measures 
  • Detecting possible cybersecurity threats or data breaches
  • Responding to cyberattacks or data breaches after they are detected
  • Recovering data through disaster recovery, backups, and other procedures 

Every cybersecurity framework identifies specific steps for businesses to take that fall into each of these five categories. Certain programs fall into the identify, protect, detect, respond, or recover component, while others take a comprehensive approach and assist with more than one category. Frameworks aim to help leaders understand current best practices in each category to get the most out of their cybersecurity efforts.  

Cyber security team working

4 Common Cybersecurity Standard Organizations

Cybersecurity is a complex concept that few business owners can be expected to fully understand on their own. For this reason, several organizations have created checklists of standards to follow to ensure businesses are implementing proper cybersecurity measures and can work on improving critical infrastructure cybersecurity. Small businesses, large government agencies, and everything in between can benefit from expert guidance to get the most out of their cybersecurity programs and handle risk mitigation. 

Here are four of the largest and most influential:  

  1. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is one of the best-known cybersecurity standard organizations. This division of the United States Department of Commerce provides guidelines for businesses to reduce their risk of experiencing a cyberattack, data breach, or other security issues. The NIST cybersecurity framework’s tips can be applied to businesses of any size, but it is particularly well-known for providing the guidelines that all U.S. federal agencies are required to use to improve national security under the direction of the Executive Order on Strengthening the Cybersecurity of Federal Networks and Critical Infrastructure. 

  1. International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is a Switzerland-based group of representatives from 165 countries whose own cybersecurity standard organizations — such as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) in the U.S. — make up the ISO. It began with representatives from 25 countries meeting in London in 1946 to discuss the necessity of implementing standards on an international level and became an official organization in 1947. It has since been providing regulatory roadmaps to help protect entities during cybersecurity events.

  1. Center for Internet Security (CIS)

The Center for Internet Security (CIS) provides both internal and external organizations with cybersecurity resources. Members of its SecureSuite can use the program to scan their cybersecurity configurations to identify problems, configure various systems to ensure they are providing cutting-edge levels of protection for all a business’s devices, and track compliance benchmarks. 

  1. Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a division of the Payment Card Industry (PCI) that identifies standards credit card companies are required to follow to ensure the highest level of data security for users. Being able to use cards to make online payments has greatly increased businesses’ ability to operate online, but has also led to cybersecurity concerns. The PCI DSS has published several documents that businesses can use to ensure their cybersecurity programs adequately protect the financial data of their customers.

Implementing Cybersecurity Frameworks 

Choosing a cybersecurity framework is only part of the equation, and there are several steps to take after purchasing yours to maximize its offerings. Some of the most important elements of implementing your business’s cybersecurity framework include: 

  • Carefully reading each document to thoroughly understand how it works
  • Analyzing strengths and weaknesses in your current cybersecurity program
  • Identifying gaps in your current program and making a plan to fix them
  • Generating reports of your findings and sharing them with key people in your organization 
  • Making a plan to regularly audit the entire process to keep up with updates and new programs that become available in the future

Reading and implementing the guidelines in cybersecurity frameworks benefits virtually any business, but some industries rely more on this information than others. All need to take steps to minimize damage from cyberattacks, but breaches in certain industries are more likely to compromise customers’ personal data or even national security. Some of those that most heavily rely on the information found in such frameworks include:

  • Any that require customers’ financial data, like online banking and shopping platforms
  • Those that store confidential health information, such as hospitals and dentists
  • eCommerce businesses that operate entirely online
  • Any type of government agency

At Option3Ventures, we realize that cybersecurity is a complex topic that is challenging to fully understand. Taking steps to understand what goes into protecting your sensitive data and close gaps in your current programs means you can proactively lower the likelihood of having to fix problems later. 

Contact Option3Ventures today to speak with our experts about any questions you may have regarding how cybersecurity frameworks can benefit your business.

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