As the famous quote goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” And when it comes to cybersecurity, prevention is key. That’s why having a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) on your executive leadership team is crucial and is an important security step for CEOs.

In this article, we’ll discuss the six steps needed for your organization to establish a baseline of its security program. By following these steps with the help of a skilled and experienced CISO, you can build a strong and secure foundation to protect your business from cyber attacks.

Step 1: Define Security Objectives

To establish a baseline for your organization’s security program, the first step is to define your security objectives. This includes identifying the assets and information that need to be protected and the risks associated with these assets and information. In addition, it’s important to determine the regulatory and industry requirements that need to be met.

But where do you start? Fortify Experts regularly moderates CISO roundtable forums which bring together leading CISOs to discuss hot topics and share best practices, including establishing a baseline. During a recent forum, a group of CISOs agreed that organizations should establish a baseline on a Risk Management Framework (RMF) like NIST Controls, FFIEC, or HI-Trust.

Some frameworks are designed for a particular industry, such as health care or finance. So, with the help of a skilled and experienced CISO and the insights gained from the Fortify CISO Forum, you can define your security objectives and establish a solid baseline to protect your organization’s assets and information.

Step 2: Conduct a Security Assessment

To conduct a thorough security assessment of the organization’s systems and applications, a CISO can provide invaluable expertise and experience to a company and its leadership team.

Benchmarking against industry standard cybersecurity frameworks such as NIST CSF, CMMC, HIPAA, etc. can provide a baseline score and prioritize your improvement plan. Fortify Experts provides low cost security assessments to help accelerate securing your digital assets.

Also, by utilizing a combination of vulnerability scanning and penetration testing tools, a CISO can identify vulnerabilities in the organization’s systems and applications and provide recommendations for remediation. Vulnerability scanning tools such as Nessus, Qualys, or Metasploit can scan the organization’s network and systems for known vulnerabilities. In contrast, penetration testing can simulate a real-world attack on the organization’s systems and applications to identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses.

With regular security assessments, organizations can ensure their systems and applications remain secure and address new security threats as they arise. Don’t wait until it’s too late to conduct a security assessment–work with a CISO and utilize the right tools to protect your business-critical data.

Learn how to hire a great CISO with our Insider’s Guide.

Step 3: Evaluate Compliance

Establishing a strong security program is crucial for any organization looking to protect its assets and information from cyber threats. However, compliance with industry regulations and standards is equally important. This is where a CISO comes in.

With the help of compliance management software, such as SecurityStudio, and Archer, a CISO can guide the executive leadership team through the compliance process and evaluate the organization’s compliance status. By staying up to date on the latest industry regulations and standards, a CISO can help the organization build trust with customers, partners, and stakeholders and comply with legal and regulatory requirements.

A skilled and experienced CISO can also help the executive leadership team stay up to date on the latest industry regulations and standards, including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). With a strong compliance program in place, organizations can demonstrate their commitment to protecting sensitive information and ensuring the security of their systems and operations. Work with a CISO to evaluate your compliance and protect your business-critical data.

Step 4: Document Configuration Settings

In step four of establishing a baseline for a company’s security program, it’s important to document the configuration settings for its network devices, systems, and applications. This can be a challenging task, especially for organizations with complex IT environments. But a skilled and experienced CISO can help guide the process and make it more manageable. During a recent Fortify CISO Forum, CISOs agreed that configuration management software is an essential tool for managing and monitoring configurations to ensure they are secure and consistent.

Examples of configuration management software include Puppet and Chef, but there are several others available. The CISO can help the executive leadership team choose the solution that best fits the organization’s needs based on factors such as the size of its infrastructure, the complexity of its IT environment, and the specific requirements of its security and compliance policies. With the help of a CISO, documenting configuration settings can be an efficient and effective way to establish a strong and secure foundation for the organization’s security program.

Step 5: Implement Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) Systems

As cyber threats continue to evolve and become more sophisticated, it’s more important than ever for CEOs to establish a strong baseline of their company’s security program. A key component of this is the implementation of Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) systems, which help organizations collect, analyze, and respond to security-related events and alerts across their infrastructure. In this step, a skilled and experienced CISO can provide invaluable guidance to ensure that the SIEM system is deployed effectively and efficiently, while mitigating potential pitfalls.

SIEM tools such as Splunk and LogRhythm help organizations collect, analyze, and respond to security-related events and alerts across their infrastructure. By analyzing event data, organizations can establish a security posture baseline and take proactive steps to mitigate potential security threats. However, deploying a SIEM system can come with potential pitfalls, including high costs, complexity, integration challenges, and an overwhelming amount of data.

With the guidance of a skilled and experienced CISO, executive leadership teams can carefully consider these potential pitfalls and take steps to mitigate them. Working together, the CISO and executive leadership team can choose a solution that is easy to use and integrate, invest in training and support, and take a data-driven approach to security management. Don’t hesitate to work with a CISO to implement a SIEM system and protect your business-critical data.

Step 6: Perform Risk Management

As the threat landscape continues to evolve, it’s critical for CEOs to establish a baseline of their company’s security program. A CISO can provide invaluable guidance and expertise when it comes to performing risk management techniques to protect the organization’s assets and information. Unlike security assessments, which provide a one-time examination of the security posture, risk management is an ongoing process that involves maintaining and improving security posture.

By performing threat and vulnerability assessments, risk prioritization, and continuous monitoring and updating, organizations can establish a baseline of their risk posture and prioritize their security efforts accordingly. At the Fortify CISO Forum, CISOs recommended using SecurityStudio, a maturity assessment tool for NIST, HIPAA, CMMC, and FFIEC, or Riskrecon, a vendor risk assessment tool.

With a skilled and experienced CISO, the executive leadership team can ensure their security program is comprehensive and that their organization remains protected against evolving security threats. Work with a CISO to perform risk management techniques and establish a baseline of your security posture, so you can be better prepared to handle potential security incidents.

Conclusion

Establishing a baseline of your organization’s security program is essential in protecting your company’s assets and information against cyber threats. As the CISOs at the Fortify Experts CISO Forum noted, security is everyone’s responsibility, but not everyone knows their responsibility. This is where a CISO can provide invaluable guidance and expertise to help the executive leadership team establish a baseline for the company’s security program.

At Fortify Experts, we understand the challenge of hiring a CISO, which has become one of the company’s most difficult hires. That’s why we’re committed to helping executive leadership teams find the right CISO for their organization. Our CISO Forum is a valuable resource for staying up to date on the latest cybersecurity trends and best practices, and we have developed a step-by-step guide on how to hire a great CISO who lasts.
Request your free copy of How to Hire a Great CISO by Fortify Experts today and take the first step towards establishing a strong security program for your organization.