Categories : Network, Security, Technology Assessment

Bluewave | November 17, 2021

A Guide to IT Security Assessments

You can’t secure what you can’t see. A comprehensive IT security assessment can help you identify areas of your IT stack where you may not have the visibility you need to defend against threats. Here’s how else IT security assessments helps you achieve peace of mind in an unpredictable business environment.

What Can an IT Security Assessment Tell You?

While IT security assessments may all look slightly different in practice, they’re all designed to deliver one thing—a measurable metric that your organization can use to establish a baseline for how well your cyber security platform is working and compare how your defenses stack up against others in your industry. Some assessments may use a number grade, others a letter grade, but no matter the metric, they help you understand how vulnerable your organization is to various cyber threats, so you have the visibility to do something about it.

IT security assessments generally fall under one of two categories: outside-in assessments and inside-out assessments. One isn’t necessarily better than the other, and they’re most effective when used in conjunction.

Outside-In Security Assessments

Outside-in assessments are designed to help you identify network vulnerabilities similar to how cyber criminals start researching targets—by collecting all publicly available data that could be used to exploit a network. Outside-in assessments can be conducted passively, without requiring access to your network, since they draw on publicly available information as well as security risk intelligence sources. Because of this, they may only represent the tip of the iceberg when it comes to deeper vulnerabilities, but they can be conducted much more quickly and cost effectively.

Inside-Out Security Assessments

Inside-out security assessments, on the other hand, take a more aggressive approach to identifying vulnerabilities within the IT stack. Inside-out security assessments require access to your network and often employ more sophisticated vulnerability identification strategies, including white hat hackers, penetration testing, policy audits, and social engineering tests. While inside-out security assessments may uncover vulnerabilities not found during an outside-in assessment, they also take longer to complete and cost more. You also have to hand the keys over to the security vendor conducting the evaluation.

Do you lack the visibility to make smart security decisions about which layers of your IT stack require additional security measures? Our Baseline Assessments deliver that visibility, so you can see what you need to secure.

Why Do IT Security Assessments Matter?

It’s pretty simple to explain why IT security assessments matter to the modern enterprise. At Bluewave, we start with an outside-in security assessment to identify the most glaring system vulnerabilities and provide you with a letter grade (i.e., A, B, C, D, or F) based on how likely your system is to be targeted and compromised by vulnerabilities.

The letter grade is based on the number of total vulnerabilities found, and those vulnerabilities are weighted depending on their severity. In our experience, organizations with a system that scores a C or lower are up to five times more likely to be breached than organizations achieving A or B status. If your system scores an A or B, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll still have a handful of vulnerabilities, but those vulnerabilities aren’t necessarily glaring enough to make you a likely target. If you score C, D, or F, on the other hand, you know you have some work to do, but that’s always the better path than learning the hard way.

The Elements of a Cyber Scorecard

Any worthwhile IT security assessment should cover six core elements of your network, including:

  1. Network Security
  2. DNS Health
  3. Patching Cadence
  4. Endpoint Security
  5. Application Security
  6. Social Engineering

Let’s take a look at each of those and explore how they tie into your broader cyber security platform.

1. Network Security

A network security assessment should check publicly available datasets for evidence of high-risk or unsecured ports within your organization’s public IP space. Insecure ports can often be exploited, allowing hackers backdoor access to your system.

2. DNS Health

Assessing DNS settings is critical to ensure that no malicious events have occurred in the passive DNS history of your company’s network while also validating that email servers are properly configured to avoid spoofing.

3. Patching Cadence

How quickly your organization reacts to vulnerabilities and installs patches is a significant factor in how likely you are to a network breach. The sooner you update patches, the better protected your system is, but many organizations overlook this simple step.

4. Endpoint Security

Hackers can use identification points on your system to extract metadata and identify outdated applications and plugins that may open the backdoor to your network. A security assessment needs to identify any endpoint vulnerabilities, and unified endpoint management (UEM) makes it easy to stay ahead of endpoints with consolidated management across mobile devices and desktops.

5. Application Security

Like endpoints, applications can introduce vulnerabilities into your network, but an IT assessment should flag any vulnerable applications, outdated versions, or exploitable features.

6. Social Engineering

When you’re focused on securing your IT stack, don’t overlook one of the biggest vulnerabilities: your people. A comprehensive IT security assessment should examine your organization’s susceptibility to a targeted social engineering attack such as phishing.

How Often Do You Need an IT Security Assessment?

If your system hasn’t had a security assessment within the last 12 months, it’s time to get one on the calendar. An outside-in assessment offers an excellent place to start because it can be conducted quickly and efficiently while flagging the most glaring gaps in your current security strategies. From there, you can determine if an inside-out assessment may be necessary to uncover hidden threats.

How Can Bluewave Help?

If it’s time to schedule an IT security assessment, Bluewave is here to help. We can conduct a preliminary IT security assessment and then leverage dozens of security vendors and providers to dig deeper or address any vulnerabilities we uncover. While a scorecard assessment makes it easy to start proactively addressing security risks, continually monitoring for risk keeps you one step ahead. That’s why our inventory management and TEM solutions come with security monitoring built in.

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