Beyond Compliance: Breaking Out of a ‘Tick-Box’ Approach to Security

By Pierre Samson

Security regulations can provide a significant guide for organisations navigating the complexity of today’s cyber threat landscape. Adhering to a specified set of guidelines and mandates provides a structured course of action. 

However, solely relying on compliance to build your security strategy can lead to businesses getting stuck in a reactive, ‘tick-box’ approach and even create a false sense of security. To truly improve resilience, companies must adopt a culture of continuous cyber improvement that goes above and beyond baseline requirements. 

Compliance alone is not enough for comprehensive cybersecurity 

Regulatory compliance is not a silver bullet for protecting organisational assets. This is a common yet dangerous misconception that can have costly ramifications. Security regulations are indeed significant, but they don’t necessarily make an enterprise immune to cyber threats. 

In most cases, compliance should be treated as a minimum requirement. It’s more like following the fire safety protocols in your building. Regularly checking fire safety devices, electronic appliances, and running evacuation drills lowers the risk of a fire and enhances security in the event of an incident. However, they don’t completely eliminate the threat. 

A compliance-centred strategy is inherently passive and reactive, ill-suited to the evolving and swift nature of current cyber threats. Organisations fixated on compliance often focus more on passing routine evaluations and audits rather than truly understanding and managing their specific security risks. This approach can engender complacency, allowing new weaknesses to remain undetected until the next audit cycle. During the intervals between these checks, adversaries may exploit these overlooked vulnerabilities.

Shifting from a reactive mindset to a proactive stance 

Compliance should be seen as a starting point – a foundation for building stronger cyber capabilities. Once this baseline has been achieved, businesses need to focus on proactive measures that can incrementally improve their security posture over time.  This means developing a culture of ongoing cybersecurity improvement. 

This involves practices such as relentless surveillance, proactive threat hunting, and prompt identification of vulnerabilities. These actions take the pulse of the network, spotting imminent threats and enabling the pre-emptive resolution of security gaps. An organised and effective vulnerability management program is also crucial, as it systematically identifies and fixes security flaws.

While episodic security evaluations like penetration tests and risk assessments are beneficial in pinpointing susceptibilities, they are not substitutes for constant vigilance and immediate action.

Organisations that prioritise live security initiatives cultivate an anticipatory culture, agile in the face of evolving cyber threats. This forward-looking stance ensures that cybersecurity is woven into the fabric of daily business processes, not relegated to an ancillary role, thereby fortifying the organisation’s overall cyber resilience.

The importance of investing in real-time security 

To shift towards a more vigilant cybersecurity posture, companies must allocate resources to technologies that enable continuous monitoring and immediate reaction to cyber threats. Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) systems and Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) platforms are two of the most important solutions that can help organisations achieve this. 

SIEM solutions serve as a centralised hub for security data, pulling from diverse points across an enterprise’s network to deliver instantaneous insights into potential security breaches, thereby facilitating swift identification and action against cyber incidents. They streamline the consolidation of log data, automate the recognition of threats, and afford a panoramic view of an organisation’s security status.

Conversely, EDR platforms concentrate on safeguarding individual endpoints, scrutinising device-level activities for indications of malign intent like unusual processes or efforts to gain unauthorised access. These systems often incorporate advanced methodologies such as machine learning and behaviour analytics to discern and neutralise threats at the endpoint level.

Incorporating these technologies into their cybersecurity framework allows enterprises to sharpen their threat detection and response mechanisms. When used in concert with other resources, including threat intelligence streams, vulnerability scanners, and patch management utilities, they constitute an integrated defence network that facilitates relentless surveillance, threat identification, and incident management.

Building a culture of continuous cyber improvement 

Establishing a more proactive, continuous approach to security requires a multi-layered approach. Central to this is putting a focussed effort on evaluating potential threats, and practical steps to mitigate them. 

The Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) can also be useful in assessing the severity of vulnerabilities detected by the EDR and other tools. The latest CVSS 4.0 version goes beyond just providing a base risk score, and allows organisations to see the risk a vulnerability poses by considering the actual threat environment and how the business operates. CVSS 4.0 also adds new ways to measure risks, like understanding attack complexity and whether a user’s action would be needed for a security breach to happen. This enables resource allocation based on potential impact, addressing high-risk vulnerabilities first and reducing overall cyber risk exposure. 

Organisations should also look for new ways to enhance their security capabilities. For instance, they could develop strategies for External Attack Surface Management (EASM), which focuses on identifying and rectifying all threats related to external assets. Similarly, solutions like Cyber Asset Attack Surface Management (CAASM) and Digital Risk Protection Services (DPRS) can help increase visibility and awareness of ongoing threats and data leakage risks. 

These techniques collectively serve to improve a company’s threat detection capabilities and broaden the scope of monitoring to include more assets and third-party connections. But what’s most important is that, beyond these tools, organisations must work towards unifying the different sources of data and establishing a central view of their risk landscape.

Through the adoption and strategic incorporation of these advanced tools, organisations can develop a culture that drives continuous improvement, immediate threat recognition, and pre-emptive action. Such a culture empowers teams to outpace sophisticated threats and preserve stakeholder confidence in a world where cyber awareness is ever-growing.

About the Author

Pierre Samson

Pierre Samson is Chief Revenue Officer at Hackuity, in charge of all Revenue and GTM activities to accelerate Hackuity’s international expansion into the EU and APJ markets, helping companies enhance their security posture and cyber hygiene, one patch at a time, through risk-based vulnerability prioritisation and automation.

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