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Cost-Effective Cybersecurity Strategies


This is the first of a five-part series asking the security division technical leaders what are the most frequently asked questions about security.

The five most asked questions are as follows.

  1. What is the single most cost-effective thing I could implement in my organization to increase my cyber security posture?
  2. Will we ever get rid of passwords in our lifetime?
  3. What is the one emerging technologies that I should budget for?
  4. How will an investment in big data, data lakes, or data mining significantly change my security posture?
  5. I don't know what I don't know about my security weaknesses. How does your technology tell me what I don't know?

Question 1: What is the single most cost-effective thing I could implement in my organization to increase my cybersecurity posture?

While trends such as advanced persistence threats (APT), ransomware, and fileless malware garner a lot of industry press, statistics show that the majority of threats, including those enumerated above, originate from a 20-year-old attack vector when combined with more advanced techniques such as spear-phishing. Ironically, phishing is a problem whose most effective defense is not a specific tool or technology—but a well-trained workforce. In fact, a recent study by the Ponoemon Institute comparing the cost of phishing attacks to the benefit of employee training found that a training program from one vendor resulted in a net return on investment of approximately 50 times. This doesn’t imply that additional security technologies will not increase the posture of an organization; rather, it simply implies the most significant and possibly cost-effective program an organization can execute is a comprehensive training and education program. Furthermore, a program that operates at all levels with different perspectives is essential. This would include end users, executives and financial administrators.

End User Training

The most common attack vector used against organizations is through endpoint devices associated with users of corporate and web-based applications. These are easier targets because of the constant changing landscape of endpoints and reduced security awareness of the end user. The landscape is constantly changing as the user may be installing third-party applications downloaded from the network. The end user is not a security expert, and generally unaware of how an attack, breach, infection or data loss could occur. Comprehensive understanding of attack vectors is unreasonable for the average end user. However, education on how an attack occurs and its warning signs, and accountability as the last line of defense for preventing a breach is paramount. The user must be considered the last line of defense, because they allow attacks to bypass conventional security measures based on the actions of an end user.

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