During the COVID-19 Pandemic, it was reported that cybercrime increased by 600%. As the world has become more reliant on technology, whether for personal life or for business, cyberattacks have risen with it. Unfortunately, there are a lot of cybersecurity misconceptions that prevent businesses from adequately preparing for and responding to these attacks.
Catherine Pitt, a VP information security officer at Pearson, said, “Consider that many companies currently spend the same amount of time, effort, and money every year to keep the electronic inventory of cleaning supplies secure as they do to safeguard their most sensitive corporate information.” More time and resources need to be spent protecting this critical information.
IT security is of paramount importance when it comes to safeguarding your organization's data and technological assets. We’ve provided a high-level overview of an IT security checklist to help get you started. But first, let’s discuss why it’s important to assess security risk.
The importance of security risk assessment
Performing an IT security risk assessment allows you (or a third party) to look at your systems, processes, and technologies to identify risks in your environment that are exploitable by a threat actor.
During the evaluation, tools are used to do a vulnerability assessment against your network. This assessment includes things like pen testing, auditing user behavior, and faking phishing attempts. Once those vulnerabilities are identified, a report listing the vulnerabilities is generated. Then, your organization can remediate them. The IT security risk assessment report provides concrete facts and evidence of what is lacking in your organization’s cybersecurity.
What are the advantages of using an IT security checklist?
Using an IT security checklist helps to ensure that all your bases are covered and your IT environment is protected. By addressing every component, you leave no stone unturned and protect all components of your technology against cyberthreats. Check out this IT security checklist to learn what basic elements to include in your IT security strategy:
IT Security Checklist
IT security is a broad term that entails protecting all of an organization’s systems, data, and devices. It can be overwhelming to know how to efficiently protect each component in your IT environment. How do you know which cybersecurity tools you need or ensure all your IT assets are adequately protected?
To help simplify an otherwise complicated process, Sounil Yu created the Cyber Defense Matrix. The framework helps organizations to understand their security landscape and security posture, and it is the framework our checklist will be based on.
The matrix starts with the 5 functions of the NIST framework: identify, protect, detect, respond, and recover. These operational functions make up the first dimension of the matrix. The second dimension of the matrix lists the major asset classes that need to be protected in an IT environment. The assets are: devices, apps, networks, data, and users.
Below the grid, there is the degree of dependency. This displays a continuum of how much technology or people each of the functions depend on. The identify function relies the most on technology. As you move to the right on the grid each function depends on it less, while each consecutive function’s dependency on people grows. Under the technology and people continuums, there is a constant dependency on process.
Make sure you have the people, technology, and processes in place to perform each of these functions.
IT Security Checklist: What are you trying to secure?
1. Device/Endpoint security
Device or endpoint security aims to protect your systems and assets on the devices or endpoints. These assets could majorly impact your organization if they were leaked or compromised in any way. Endpoint security controls include controlled access, drive encryption, password management, managed AV, and device approval. Endpoint management software also gives you greater visibility, which is a foundational requirement for effective security, so you can catch cyberattacks earlier.
2. Network security
Your organization’s network provides access to all elements of the IT infrastructure, so it is crucial to implement effective network security. This is accomplished through things like network segmentation, access control, sandboxing, and zero trust.
3. Application security
Application security involves putting security features in place to shield out attackers at the application level. Application security features include authentication, authorization, encryption, and logging.
4. Data security
Data security is the practice of protecting your IT assets throughout their entire lifecycle. This includes the storage of data, access of data, transportation of data, and proper disposal of data. Common data security solutions include data discovery and classification, data encryption, data backup and recovery, data segmentation, and more.
5. User security
95% of cybersecurity breaches are due to human error, according to IBM. People are not machines; they can become distracted or be easily deceived and are unpredictable, which makes it easier for threat actors to enter and compromise systems. Security actions to protect users include phishing simulations, multi-factor authentication (MFA), and background checks.
IT Security Checklist: What you need to invest in to actually secure these assets.
The Cyber Defense Matrix classifies these functions as being either left of “boom” or right of “boom”, meaning they typically happen before or after a cybersecurity event.
Cyber Defense Matrix:
The identify function encompasses the actions that are necessary to inventory all your assets and understand your current security landscape. This can include performing a vulnerability or assessment or analyzing your attack surface. Investing in proper tests and measurements will give you a greater knowledge as to where gaps are and what may need increased attention.
Protecting your assets involves measures such as hardening, patching, and vulnerability management. It may also include actions taken after malware has been recognized, such as isolation of a virus to prevent it from infecting other IT assets. Examples of the protect function are applying secure Windows configurations and installing EDR/AV.
Detection relies on both people and technology, and it is used after a cyberattack has commenced. The detect function is used to recognize threat actors or cybersecurity events, which can be accomplished through human discovery and active search or automatic alerts when activity in the IT environment deviates from the norm.
The response to the event is how you eradicate the cyberthreat. How quickly you can respond and the successful removal of the threat will determine the outcome of the event, so it is critical to have a thought-out plan with effective response strategies in place. This function also covers how you assess the damage that was done.
The final function is to recover. After you’ve been hit by a cyberattack, you’ll have to find a way to pull through to restore and return to your daily business operations. All five functions are very important, but the final function of recovery will show the strength of your IT security strategy as you restore damaged assets and return to normal. Hopefully, after experiencing an attack, you’ll also be able to recognize and record ways you can improve your IT security strategy in the future.
Use the Cyber Defense Matrix as an IT security checklist to conduct a risk assessment of your IT environment. This matrix shows possible security actions and controls that can be used for each assets in the five operational functions:
As you’re conducting your IT security assessment or audit, be sure to also keep these best practices in mind:
Best practices for conducting an IT security audit
Conducting a proper cybersecurity audit is essential for protecting and securing your IT environment. Crash Test Security provides some best practices for conducting an IT security audit:
Define your IT security goals
What specific objectives are you trying to accomplish with your IT security? Begin by outlining the IT aims of the business and what exactly the audit is checking for. Identify what vulnerabilities you are trying to manage or potential gaps or issues you want to mitigate.
Develop security policies
IT security policies spell out the rules and expectations for how individuals in your company access and utilize technology. Develop and review these policies so everyone is on the same page.
Inform all business employees
Anyone who has access to any technology within the organization needs to have a basic knowledge of the cybersecurity policies in place. They should also understand what part they play in an IT security audit.
Reference applicable security requirements
Depending on which industry your organization is in, there are certain data protection laws in place. Identify which security framework fits your business and then reference the associated security requirements during the IT security audit.
Account for all assets
Make sure that all your IT assets are inventoried. It also helps in the IT audit to know how all the assets relate and work with each other, so creating a network diagram is beneficial.
Assign security roles and responsibilities
Outline who is responsible for which cybersecurity responsibilities. This helps to aid in the creation of an escalation matrix, so you know who to contact at certain levels when cybersecurity incidents occur.
Manage your endpoint security with NinjaOne
IT security is critical to protect company data, devices, and other IT assets. Plus, a strong cybersecurity strategy will help to block (or at least slow down) potential cyberattacks, and allow you to respond appropriately. Together, a well-executed cybersecurity audit and IT security strategy help you to better protect your IT assets. Check out our MSP Cybersecurity Checklist for more information on how to secure your organization’s IT environment.
NinjaOne is a unified endpoint management solution that combines features like patching, remote access, and monitoring into one. Ensure that all your devices are secure and protected with ease, and sign up for a free trial today.