Towards a Secure Cloud: Top 6 Strategic Priorities for Cyber Risk Leaders

With digital transformation rapidly increasing, managing cybersecurity and cyber risks has become critical business and social imperatives. To build cyber-resilient organizations, cyber risk leaders need to gain sustained support and focus from the top management in their cyber-fortification and risk management efforts today. They also need to ensure that their cybersecurity and risk strategies are evolving in line with the latest technologies and more crucially, with its business and strategic objectives. 

To keep pace with rapidly evolving customer and stakeholder demands, enterprises continue to embrace innovative technologies such as data analytics, the internet of things, artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, and mobility. With the volume of data generated from these technologies expanding at an exponential rate, many enterprises are transitioning – or have already moved – to the cloud to take advantage of the flexibility and savings in data storage space, easier data maintenance, infrastructure, and lower costs. 

According to Gartner, more than 85% of organizations will embrace a cloud-first principle by 2025. As cloud computing goes mainstream, security teams, and cyber risk executives have a key role to play in safeguarding the data and applications stored, setting up and monitoring cloud security controls, and detecting and mitigating cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities, while also ensuring compliance with IT regulations, standards, and policies. 

In this eBook, we will look at six key areas that every cyber risk leader needs to consider for ensuring that their cloud data, applications, assets, and consequently, brand are well-protected.

Top 6 Strategic Priorities for Cyber Risk Leaders for a Secured Cloud

1. Implement a Risk-Based Approach to Data Protection

As custodians of sensitive customer information, IT and cyber risk managers play a major role in keeping data in the cloud safe and secure. More than anyone else in their organization, they have a clear insight into the risks that can impact the integrity, confidentiality, and privacy of sensitive information. Therefore, it is imperative that they be part of core team discussions that examine cloud-related risks such as the loss of intellectual property (IP), loss of sensitive data, attacks on applications and networks, and other business operation disruptions. 

The role of cyber risk executives itself is continuously evolving and expanding beyond safeguarding IT and cloud infrastructure to being an enabler for business and a catalyst for change. Today, they are expected to connect cybersecurity and cloud risks to the context of the business – i.e., by correlating IT and cloud-based assets and their residual risk scores with their business impact. Implementing risk-based strategies backed by appropriate frameworks and continuous monitoring provides the first step in achieving this. Building on this strategy to improve cyber maturity can eventually lead to an effective risk-based approach to data protection. These insights are essential in examining the need for new cyber and cloud security investments from a strategic and organizational perspective, rather than from a technical perspective.     

2. Maintain Robust Cloud Security Controls

When it comes to the cloud, many organizations tend to focus on costs rather than controls. But without effective controls, it’s only a matter of time before a serious cybersecurity incident occurs. And when it does, the losses can be significant. While the onus of cloud security falls on the security teams to ensure that effective controls around cloud-based data segregation, data and application security, and infrastructure security are incorporated into cloud deployments from the start, it should also be the responsibility of the risk executives to regularly assess the controls and safeguards in place and regularly prescribe improvements thereto. 

A sustainable control monitoring mechanism is also essential to check that controls are working as expected. With the fast-evolving cyber threat landscape, appropriate frameworks need to be implemented and regularly assessed. Further, a periodic approach to control testing and monitoring is no longer effective. Continuous control monitoring (CCM) – the automated testing and monitoring of controls across IT and cloud infrastructure – enables CISOs and cyber risk managers to proactively identify control weaknesses in near real-time and continually improve cybersecurity and compliance posture. While most cloud service providers implement certain standards by default, it is important to supplement these with further standards aligned to the business objectives of the organization.     

3. Strengthen Risk Reporting

For business stakeholders to make fully informed decisions, they need to be aware of critical IT risks and controls in the cloud. Cyber risk managers can help ensure that these insights are delivered quickly and communicated effectively by establishing granular IT risk governance and reporting that encapsulates all IT assets, including cloud-based applications. 

This not only improves visibility into critical cloud security risks and the overall IT risk and compliance profile of an organization’s critical technology infrastructure but also provides transparency and assurance to company stakeholders and auditors. 

IT risk governance and reporting should be built to handle all IT risk and compliance reporting related requirements, as well as their correlation with business operations. As there is no one-size-fits-all procedure, appropriate metrics should be selected and supplemented by robust analytics and dashboards. These can also be invaluable in helping enterprises transform raw risk and compliance data into actionable business intelligence for faster, more informed decision-making.     

4. Effectively Address Vulnerabilities

With the growing dependency on the cloud, timely discovery and remediation of cloud-based vulnerabilities, such as misconfigurations, weak access management, insecure APIs, etc., is essential. According to the 2022 Cost of a Data Breach Report, cloud misconfiguration was the third most common initial attack vector in 2022, responsible for 15% of breaches. 

Organizations should set up a continuous process for detecting, reporting, and remediating vulnerabilities in the cloud to strengthen data and application security. Leveraging comprehensive vulnerability scanners can help to proactively detect a wide range of vulnerabilities. Once identified, the vulnerabilities need to be assessed and analyzed to understand their criticality and prioritize them for remediation measures. Vulnerability scanners then generate a vulnerability assessment report that details the scan, identified vulnerabilities, and remediation measures. The entire process – identification, assessment, remediation, and reporting – needs to be automated and performed continuously and iteratively to ensure all identified vulnerabilities have been effectively addressed.     

5. Ensure a Business Continuity Plan

One of the biggest challenges faced by organizations is to recover from a cyberattack or other IT disruption as quickly as possible, so that its impact is minimized. With cloud-based infrastructure, quick incident response is even more critical to ensure that any and all disruptions are managed in a tightly coordinated and swift manner. 

Cyber risk teams need to have a clear and well-defined business continuity plan and incident response strategy and handbook that are closely aligned with the cloud implementation and are based on the results of a pre-conducted business impact analysis. This includes ensuring that the security team knows how to access cloud data in an event that affects the organization or the cloud service provider (CSP), having a clear understanding of the support to be provided by the CSP during and in the aftermath of an emergency, and devising a contingency plan for the loss of cloud data. A system for mass notifications and incident tracking is also critical in ensuring that all disruptions are handled and resolved smoothly.     

6. Consider a Cyber Insurance Policy

Given the tremendous impact that a cyberattack can have on reputation and revenue, many companies are opting for cyber insurance to protect themselves. Cyber risk leaders need to proactively monitor the need for cyber insurance and counsel business stakeholders accordingly. For many companies, cyber insurance is an important hedging strategy in minimizing possible financial losses from data security-related lawsuits, business disruptions, and losses. 

That said, how does one estimate how much coverage they need? The answer to this question lies in understanding risk exposure and return on investment. While insurers have their own application processes, cyber risk quantification, i.e. quantifying cyber risk in financial terms, can greatly help organizations to determine their insurance coverage. By bringing clarity to cyber risk exposure and critical risks, quantification can help make better-informed decisions such as risk prioritization, risks to be covered in cyber insurance, and the appropriate premium.

How MetricStream Can Help

MetricStream CyberGRC is a suite of purpose-built IT and cyber risk and compliance management solutions that help organizations actively manage cyber risk and compliance requirements across their IT and cloud infrastructure. The software solutions simplify adopting an IT and Cyber Risk and Compliance Framework that is aligned with established security standards and industry best practices. Gain comprehensive visibility into the overall IT risk and compliance posture, cybersecurity investment priorities, threats and vulnerabilities, the effectiveness of controls, and more. 

With MetricStream CyberGRC, you can:

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