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All organizations which collect user or customer data are inherently exposing themselves to risk. What happens if the data leaks? What happens if someone hacks your systems? What are the potential business and financial impacts associated with weathering a data breach? These are all terrifying questions in the eyes of a CISO, but in order to mitigate that risk, organizations have developed a strategy of security posture assessments which serve as a due diligence process to ensure that these fears will not become a reality.
Before we dive deep into the importance of successfully completing a security posture assessment, we should first take the step to explain, what is security posture? Your security posture depends largely on your industry, but generically it is a collection of InfoSec resources (including people, hardware, software, and policies) which contribute to building the capability to manage the defense of systems against threats and react to situational changes. Seems relatively straightforward, but the ongoing climate of escalating cyberattacks, combined with the lack of standardization in security policies across organizations means that buyers are constantly forced to assess the posture of a company by asking themselves the question—what is your cybersecurity posture meaning?
The process of asking a series of questions and receiving a series of answers related to a company’s security posture results in the overarching phase typically referred to as a security posture assessment. During this process, companies are working to distill their potential vendor or partner’s strengths, gaps, and areas for improvement when it comes to security. Typically, companies have a previously outlined set of requirements, potentially including things like SOC 2 certifications or SSO capabilities, for which they feel comfortable sharing data and assuming the risk of partnership. More or less, a security posture assessment is a process which allows sellers to prove their dedication to preventing data breaches and allows buyers to mitigate any concerns related to an organization’s potential shortcomings with regards to their security policies and practices.
The definition of a strong security posture varies from organization to organization and is largely dependent on industry, company size, and risk tolerance, it is generally important to build a security posture that is strong enough (or stronger!) than your customers expectations.
This is key because as a software buyer, it is important for a company to have a strong security posture because this proves to your end-users that their data is protected against potential breaches, proves to you that your product is protected from potential outages or malicious attacks, and proves to both parties that your company is protected against unforeseen security issues.
As a software seller, a solid security foundation proves to your customers and prospects that your company is dedicated to protecting them and their data. More often than not, a certain set of security standards are a prerequisite to a prospect signing a deal with your company. The sooner you can provide your prospects with your security posture example, the sooner they know that they can trust your company (or, where there are discussions to be had about improving your posture to meet their expectations). Once a prospective customer has gotten the essentials out of the way, they can begin to focus their energy more wholly on seeing the true value that your product provides. Providing a standard cyber security posture report is a great way to take the first step towards building transparency and trust into the fabric of your company.
If you’re approaching a security posture assessment from the buyer side, it is important to ask yourself the question, “how do you know if a company has a good security posture?” Despite the seemingly simplistic nature of this question, it is often rather challenging to distill in the current software security environment. Simply put, a security posture assessment is the most foundational way to tell if a company has a good security posture. This may leave you, however, with the follow up question is, “what is security posture assessment?”
A security posture assessment is the process by which software buyers and sellers establish that they are aligned not only in their ability to provide value or solve a problem for one another, but also that their views of security and risk tolerance are aligned. Establishing enough trust that organizations to feel comfortable sharing data, some of which may be considered sensitive, is perhaps the most important part of the software buying process.
As with any assessment, there are varying levels of a cyber security posture that can serve as indicators to you for whether or not your company’s requirements align with posture of an organization you’re aiming to buy from. Many of these levels are defined as industry-standard security requirements, and include things like SOC 1, SOC 2, CSA, FISMA, ISO 27001, CSA C-STAR, and more. Each of these security standards outline a specific level of compliance, which can be found in in-depth articles on the details of these security posture levels. For now, let’s look at a high-level overview.
SOC 1: A set of compliance requirements that applies to companies' internal control over financial reporting. An audit against these controls and the resulting report provide written documentation of an organization's internal controls that are potentially relevant to audits of their customers' financial statements.
SOC 2: A set of compliance requirements that applies to companies' handling of cloud-based customer data as it relates to operations and compliance. An audit against these controls and the resulting report provide written documentation of how they handle and store consumer data in the cloud based on the criteria of and one or all five of the AICPA's Trust Principles (availability, security, processing integrity, confidentiality and privacy), and the methods by which these criteria were tested.
FISMA: The Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) of 2002 is a framework of security standards to protect government information that is handled by third-party vendors, contractors, and partners.
ISO 27001: An international standard on how to manage information security. The standard was originally published jointly by the International Organization for Standardization and the International Electrotechnical Commission in 2005 and then revised in 2013.
CSA C-STAR Assessment: A robust third party independent assessment of the security of a cloud service provider for the Greater China market that harmonizes CSA best practices with Chinese national standards.
For a full overview of all cybersecurity posture levels, visit the Trustpage Glossary of Trust.
There are a number of organizations which can provide your company with a security posture score based on your current and future plans for your information security posture. Many of these organizations, however, use a static scoring system and do not accurately respond to the nuance and subtleties of companies at different stages, in different industries, or selling to different customers entails. For this reason, we recommend building your Trust Center based on the security posture that your customers are asking to see from you. We aim to incorporate security posture scoring in the coming months, so stay tuned!
The best example we can provide of our security posture report card is our Trust Center. The Trustpage Trust Center, along with the Trust Centers of all of our users, operate as both directories of the organization’s policies and procedures, as well as security posture assessment tools for users and visitors alike. Example security postures are often provided in the format of a cyber security risk assessment template excel or a business security assessment checklist, but these posture reports are often exchanged through email and not treated with the level of care they should be. As such, we are building Trustpage to serve as the centralized hub for easily and securely sharing your security posture report with customers. Check out these examples from Scribe, Onboard, and Sift to get a better idea of how you should build your security posture.