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Digital Transformation

The Six Stages of Cyber Security Risk and Compliance Automation


The COVID-19 pandemic has jumpstarted many digital business initiatives enterprises were waiting to take on. In the face of these initiatives, the impact of cybersecurity and the security leader’s role has changed. It is no longer feasible for organizations to dedicate the number of resources (especially regarding cost) they were able to in the past to cyber risk assessments.

Digital transformation has fundamentally altered organizations' configuration of people, processes, and technology. As a result, there are more opportunities for automation available for organizations that have a responsibility to implement to ensure they become – and stay – a business growth enabler. For too long, automation has been reserved for the most mature programs. With the rise of integrated risk management (IRM) platforms like CyberStrong, that is changing. Automation is no longer a reward at the end of the maturity journey but rather an enabler to mature faster and more robustly. 

The following will outline the cyber risk and compliance automation journey - a six-stage process that shows that cyber risk automation is possible for any program regardless of program maturity.

Stage 1 - Initial

Regardless of the organization's size, the initial stage of the cyber risk automation journey is where an organization must comply with some security standard, whether PCI, HIPAA, or CMMC. This process is doable through spreadsheets or in-house security assessments. However, as an organization grows, these solutions could be more manageable. In the initial stage, organizations look to check the compliance box rather than mitigate their overall risk and strengthen their security posture. Merely meeting compliance is dangerous as it needs to consider the processes through which risk is mitigated fully - risk needs to be identified because the organization is only checking if it is compliant.

Stage 2 - Developing

In the Developing stage, the organization is now identifying risks rather than merely meeting security and compliance standards. The developing stage looks at how regulatory compliance policies are tied to risk. Organizations in the developing stage often need to have their management onboard - management may recognize the need to be compliant but fail to implement proactive measures. Security teams must establish credibility with their cybersecurity programs so that leadership is on board with funding risk automation. At this stage, organizations are assessing whether their cyber risk solution should be kept internal and siloed or if it should be merged into a single solution.

Stage 3 - Defined

In the Defined stage, leadership within an organization supports formal strategic planning for risk management. Processes are put in place (formal or informal) for assessing risk, but the techniques are still manual. At this point, risk and compliance are not just owned by the risk team, and the leadership knows and understands the strategies. However, the language still needs to be expected and consistent for leadership to assess the success of risk strategies to reduce risk accurately. The risk and compliance personnel need to have a common cyber risk management framework in place so that those who make informed business decisions can rely on them and their accuracy to relay the proper posturing of their cybersecurity program. Furthermore, assessors and stakeholders are usually not dedicated to assessments for the organization, so evaluations need to be standardized and straightforward to follow for them to be completed.

Stage 4 - Managed

In the Managed stage, there is regular, consistent executive-level reporting from the risk and compliance team. Executives are only sometimes risk experts, so reports must summarize the posturing and risk-related information collected easily. Within the organization, risk-aware and cyber-aware culture is a priority. The organization is more aware of what it wants to track concerning Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and Key Risk Indicators (KRIs) - this could be based on the industry or specific to the organization. However,  KPIs and KRIs are not always visualized through risk and financial impact lenses. Therefore, it can be challenging to understand who the stakeholders are for KPIs and KRIs that executive boards or committees mandate. Finally, executives can only sometimes take reports from siloed sources and make informed decisions about business processes since results can be obscure or convoluted.

Stage 5 - Optimizing

The Optimizing stage is just what it sounds like - the organization is now optimizing its cybersecurity program. Culturally, the executives and board have no conflict with the risk and compliance process. Essentially, the organization is fully integrated with strategic decision-making. Governance of the data and demand for it is being driven by management. Instead of being used as justification for cybersecurity, reports are now used to help guide decisions across the supply chain. At this stage, the program is mature enough that the board level is given visibility, and compliance is expected. An IRM solution has to be present at this stage to scale assessments quickly without re-assessing all the controls. At this stage, the organization cannot afford to have inaccurate data or convoluted information that does not tie back to the actual impact of risk. The captured data must be presented to management with authentic visibility to drive business decisions.

Stage 6 - Dynamic

Finally, in the Dynamic stage, the cybersecurity program has peaked. Your automated solution has to be involved not just in automating compliance but also in driving decisions around controls with automated reporting. Human intervention may still validate risk data (and should). Still, your management solution collects data about risk nearly everywhere, and that data needs to be involved in adjusting cybersecurity posturing dynamically. The Risk Operations Center will act proactively rather than reactively in this stage since it can predict the potential impact of risk.

Closing Thoughts

A cyber risk automation solution is assuredly needed to mature your organization faster. The benefits of security automation are numerous. Your solution must effectively illustrate your organization’s posturing to shift culture and processes to a higher level of maturity in your cybersecurity organization. An automated cyber risk management approach can optimize the assessment, compliance, and reporting processes to improve protection against cyber threats. By automating security processes, security, and risk teams can remove redundant manual processes, minimize human error, and focus on proactively managing cyber risk.

To learn more about The Cyber Risk Automation Journey, please watch our webinar. Also, contact CyberSaint to learn more about how your organization can enable its risk and compliance operations.

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