Understanding A Security Controls Review: What You Need To Know
A security controls review is a comprehensive assessment of an organization’s security measures designed to identify potential vulnerabilities, weaknesses, and gaps in security protocols.
As technology continues to evolve and become an increasingly integral part of modern business operations, the need for robust security controls becomes more and more important.
The security controls review process is critical in ensuring that an organization’s data and assets are protected from potential threats, such as cyber attacks, theft, and unauthorized access.
Overview of Security Controls Review
Security controls reviews and assessments are critical to organizational risk management processes. They reveal the extent to which controls are implemented correctly, operating as they should, and meeting the required security levels.
Benefits of Conducting a Security Controls Review
Conducting a security controls review helps your organization to maximize your security systems and help gain and maintain compliance with legislative and regulatory requirements. Any solutions you have implemented as a part of your cybersecurity program are put to the test so you can identify security vulnerabilities that a hacker, malware, or other threat could exploit.
While it may seem like a large undertaking, the benefits of engaging regularly in these exercises are clear. More intense than just simple pen testing or endpoint security review, a security controls review is comprehensive and involves testing your current solutions with threat-modeling profiles based on the most common web vulnerabilities.
Security controls reviews help organizations identify which parts of their security measures are comparatively weak, thus helping determine where to invest the cybersecurity resources next. Organizations can see what is most in need of an upgrade, and ensure they are meeting industry-relevant security compliance requirements.
Related Content: Being Cyber Smart Starts with Good Cyber Hygiene
Steps in a Security Controls Review
The security controls review process is relatively straightforward. There are six main steps:
- Site visit
- Issue resolution
- Report creation
- Final results and possible certification
Essentially, you’ll want to have a team of cybersecurity experts come in and help your team decide what the priorities are, how they are going to be measured, engage in testing, and analyze the results. The first three steps involve having those experts meet with your cybersecurity team for an overview of the current situation and potentially interviews with the team itself to understand where there may be weaknesses.
Then, the review team shares their findings and suggestions for improvement with the information security team. They are given a specific amount of time to implement suggested changes, which are then reviewed and reported to share with the relevant stakeholders. In some cases, depending on the organization’s vertical and type of review, a certification may be issued.
Identify the scope and objectives of the review
That being said, before engaging in any assessment, objectives need to be defined to ensure the exercise is useful and providing information that is going to realistically help your team. These may depend on the type of review you are engaging in. For example, if you are aiming for a specific compliance goal, like GDPR or HIPAA compliance, their requirements are going to be at the forefront of the review.
Subscribe to a Common Security Control Group
There are a few common security control groups that would be the impetus for a security controls review.
The first are the Critical Security Controls (CIS Controls), which are a prescriptive, prioritized, simplified set of best practices to help organizations strengthen their cybersecurity framework. The CIS Controls involve 18 overarching measures that prioritize activities over roles and device ownership. They provide an amount of flexibility, and include safeguards that drive the logic of the 18 top-level controls. The safeguards help to define how implementation is measured with minimal interpretation required.
Next up are the ISO27002 controls. This is an information security standard published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) which provides guidance on implementing international cybersecurity best practices. ISO27002 is important for any organization that collects, uses or processes data. Although it is not a certifiable standard in and of itself, compliance with its guidelines can help your organization get closer to ISO 27001 certification.
Then we have the NIST framework, which includes various guidelines to help your organization achieve adequate cybersecurity. The NIST cybersecurity framework is a set of guidelines for mitigating organizational cybersecurity risks published by the United States Institute of Standards and Technology based on existing standards, guidelines and practices. Let’s look at two of the more common standards that organizations use:
NIST 800-171 is a Special Publication that provides recommendations for protecting controlled unclassified information (CUI). So, if your organization works with medical information or banking information, as some examples, NIST 800-171 compliance is advisable. For defense contractors, it is required per DFARS clause 252.204-7012. Cybersecurity consultants that are trained in DFARs can help organizations ensure they are NIST 800-171 compliant through a managed assessment program.
Another Special Publication, NIST 800-53 involves security and privacy controls for information systems and organizations. NIST 800-53 is imperative for any organization that works with federal information systems, agencies, and associated government contractors. This Special Publication provides a number of different controls and guidance defined upon a baseline of impact measured as either High, Medium, or Low. The controls include 20 security and control families. Even if your organization does not work directly with the federal government, NIST 800-53 is an excellent baseline framework for your cybersecurity strategy overall.
Further Reading: CIS Critical Security Controls Review
Documentation and Reporting
Security controls review documentation is a crucial aspect of any organization’s security infrastructure. It provides an in-depth analysis of the security controls in place and identifies any potential weaknesses or vulnerabilities that need to be addressed. It should also include a risk assessment that evaluates the likelihood and potential impact of different types of security threats. This will help the organization prioritize its security efforts and allocate resources appropriately.
Reporting on the results of the security controls review is equally important. The report should be tailored to the audience, presenting the findings and recommendations in a clear and concise manner. It should highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the organization’s security posture and provide actionable recommendations for improvement. The report should also include a summary of the risk assessment, outlining the key risks and their potential impact on the organization.
Finally, the report should be communicated to all relevant stakeholders, including senior management, IT staff, and other key decision-makers, to ensure that everyone understands the security risks and is committed to addressing them.
Is your organization considering a security controls review? Contact Security Compliance Associates now and let us share our experience helping myriad organizations complete their security controls review.