Today’s organizations are going through a big change in the way they operate, the way they think and the way they function. This change is being pushed by major technological (cloud and mobile), intellectual (big data and analytics) and behavioral (social) transformations that are affecting the entire IT industry. Security also has been hit by this revolution. In fact, more than the change itself, the impact to security is due to the speed of the developments.

With organizational boundaries fading, the challenges to security are being magnified, and more departments within a business are affected by the adjustments. Organizations today cannot afford to function as isolated silos. They have to embrace change and open themselves up to the vast, diverse and unsecure world of the Internet and its related technologies.

With the emergence of stronger and more widespread cybersecurity threats, organizational leaders cannot be in a wait-and-watch mode in cyberspace. The open ecosystem of the Internet gives enormous power to cybercriminals, and in turn, it makes cybersecurity more than just a technical problem — it’s a business problem. The potential consequences of a realized threat are extensive, and that has catapulted cybersecurity into the boardroom.

This increased focus on cybersecurity can mainly be attributed to the technological transformation we are going through with the emergence of cloud, analytics, mobile and social (CAMS) as a mainstream focus. It’s also creating a pressing need for some formal guidance and well-defined regulations, which can help organizations drive their cybersecurity defense programs more effectively. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework is one such effort to provide guidance in the field of cybersecurity. This framework is a good starting point for organizations who want to define, adopt and refine an infrastructure for their own needs while at the same time follow industry standards and norms.

The Cybersecurity Framework

Now that the importance of a cybersecurity governance framework has been established, I will focus on the key components of such a structure. A cybersecurity framework actually contains a whole set of management tools, a comprehensive risk management approach and, more importantly, a security awareness program covering everyone in the organization from top to bottom. In other words, every organization needs to have a complete cybersecurity governance framework to fully address all of their cybersecurity needs. There are a few key components that play crucial roles in shaping this security posture and are therefore crucial for long-term success. These components are:

  • Organizational structure;
  • Work culture;
  • Security awareness programs;
  • Cybersecurity governance.

Each of these aspects works with the others to cover gaps in security. While focusing on one specific area of need can make a difference, the most effective initiatives will use all four of these components to protect the enterprise.

1. Organizational Structure

How the organization is structured, and how that drives security-related initiatives, plays an important role in defining and shaping its security posture. A well-defined security and compliance chain of management within the organizational structure is one of the key components of this framework. It not only ensures the management is better suited to contribute to security issues, but also shows how focused the organization is on the cause.

2. Work Culture

What is the work culture inside the organization? This may include how teams look at information security and how they respond to organizational changes, which are coming at a fast pace. These are vital to the formation of the cybersecurity culture. Traditional ways of working and interactions with various stakeholders within or outside the organization need to be adjusted as per the changing landscape.

3. Security Awareness

If employees don’t know what is right and what is wrong when it comes to security, then the chances of their falling into undesirable traps are much higher. Besides the traditional approach of setting up security compliance-related policies, organizations need to objectively focus on awareness and education programs. Businesses need to have a policy to demonstrate their commitment to, and the seriousness of, making their workforce aware of the ecosystem in which they operate.

4. Cybersecurity Governance

Governance plays an extremely important role in achieving the security objective of the organization not only for current needs, but also to ensure well-drafted mitigation plans for future challenges. To address current issues, the governance framework covers improvements to security policies; the implementation of technical controls; audits and assessments; and driving awareness among people to shape their attitude toward secure behaviors. For future challenges, the governance framework must continually focus on emerging threat factors, fast-moving changes in the technological landscape, people’s views and behavior and — perhaps most importantly — the work culture transformations being pushed by CAMS.

The Relevance and Importance of the Framework

Today, cyber threats are penetrating organizations from every corner. Be it from the endpoints used by employees, tools and applications used to manage IT infrastructure or business operations or interconnectivity between different components spread across cloud landscapes, there are risks everywhere. A big chunk of these risk factors are related to the people who operate, manage or even simply use any of the organizational services or assets. This makes a well-defined cybersecurity framework essential in every organization, and most enterprises are putting out serious efforts to establish one for their IT and business ecosystem.

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