Threat Trends

3 mins

Being A Ciso: Getting The Basics Right

Being a CISO is like big-wave surfing. You have to know your game, never let complacency creep in, and be ready for total surprises.

As a cybersecurity partner for multiple businesses based in multiple geographic locations and timelines, Hadrian is in constant touch with CISOs and their teams in our client companies. The relationship goes much deeper than the contract stipulations. We have witnessed and facilitated CISO transitions.

When regular surfers move on to big-wave surfing, they have to get the basics right, beginning with longer boards and thicker wetsuits. Likewise, Hadrian’s experience of working with such a varied list of clients has taught us the importance of getting the primary steps right.

This particular issue doesn’t always get the limelight it deserves but can make or break your security posture: asset visibility. More specifically, the critical need for a complete and contextual asset inventory.  Neglecting this can leave doors open you never wanted in the first place.

The Silent Saboteur: Incomplete Asset Databases

Imagine trying to protect a castle with a map that only shows half of it. That’s what it’s like managing a network with an incomplete asset database. You might know there’s a moat and some walls, but you’re blind to the hidden tunnels and weak points. This lack of visibility can lead to serious security gaps.

Let’s dive into a real-world example to highlight the impact of this issue. For confidentiality reasons, let’s call this client “X”.

Now, X is a banking and finance business with operations in Germany and Austria. Here is a gist of what happened.

During a routine audit, we discovered several critical servers running outdated software versions with known vulnerabilities. These servers were ticking time bombs. The security team, unaware of these outdated systems, had left them vulnerable to exploitation, risking data breaches and other security incidents.

The situation posed direct and immediate consequences: business and regulatory.

Without detailed information about software versions, network topology, and host OS platforms, critical vulnerabilities can be overlooked. This oversight can lead to financial losses, damage to the company's reputation, and loss of customer trust. Furthermore, a lack of asset context may reveal systemic weaknesses, raising concerns among stakeholders about the company's ability to safeguard sensitive information and comply with regulatory standards.

Regulatory authorities in Germany and Austria impose stringent requirements on financial institutions to ensure system and data security. Failure to maintain accurate asset inventories and address known vulnerabilities can violate regulatory standards, exposing the company to fines, penalties, and legal actions. Non-compliance with data protection regulations like the GDPR could result in hefty fines and severe reputational damage.

Luckily, these risks are avoidable by getting this basic step right. For that, you should get your asset context right.

Why Is Asset Context Important?

Think of asset context as the difference between knowing you have a guard and knowing if that guard is a seasoned veteran versus a newbie. It’s not just about knowing what assets you have but understanding their configurations, software versions, and roles within your network.

Without this context, your security team might miss outdated and vulnerable software that needs urgent patches. You end up with security gaps that can be easily exploited by attackers. This isn’t just a hypothetical risk. We’ve seen the damage real-time and have saved many from facing the horrible consequences.

What Can You Do As A New Ciso?

Remember, an incomplete asset database is like navigating a battlefield blindfolded. You need all the details to fortify your defenses effectively. By maintaining a comprehensive and contextual asset inventory, you can ensure that your security team has the information they need to protect your organization from emerging threats and compliance risks.

  1. Build an asset inventory and gain visibility to identify all hardware, software, and data assets within your organization, ensuring comprehensive awareness of your IT landscape.
  1. Keep it up to date with automated tools to streamline the process of tracking changes, updates, and potential vulnerabilities, ensuring your inventory remains accurate and current.
  1. Ensure stakeholders are kept aware of their impact by regularly communicating how their actions and decisions affect the organization's security posture, fostering a culture of accountability and proactive risk management.

Hadrian helps you navigate the complex landscape of cybersecurity. Our team has compiled our collective knowledge and expertise into a comprehensive three-step guidebook tailored for new CISOs. Download our e-book now to equip yourself with the essential strategies and insights needed to excel in your role as a CISO.

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