10 of the most common security gaps, and how you can fix them

In today's cyber landscape, organisations face a never ending wave of threats from criminal organisations. These attackers possess advanced technology, skill, and persistence, and will seek to exploit any chink in your cyber armour in order to break into your systems and steal your sensitive information.

In order to mitigate the risk of cyber crime, the vast majority of organisations have some form of security plan and policy in place. Any gaps or weaknesses in these strategies leave businesses vulnerable to the risk of cyber crime - and the financial and reputational damage that follows a successful data breach.

Introducing strategies designed to address weaknesses in your security strategy reinforces your cyber defences and mitigates the risk of a breach; here's a list ten of the most common cyber security gaps, and what you can do to fix them.

10 of the most common security gaps, and how you can fix them

1. Lack of Employee Awareness and Training

Shortcomings in employee awareness and training expose organisations to a heightened risk of security incidents and data breaches. Your employees are typically the first line of defense against cyber threats, but without proper training they can unintentionally become your weakest link. Ignorance of phishing scams, poor password practices, mishandling sensitive data, and failure to recognise threats can lead to costly security incidents and harm your ability to effectively respond. Compliance with many industry standards and regulations also requires well trained staff. In order to mitigate these risks and build a strong cybersecurity posture, you must invest in comprehensive training programs that empower your employees with the knowledge and skills to recognise and stop incoming cyber threats.

2. Weak Passwords

Weak password practices provide an easy entry point for cybercriminals to steal credentials and gain unauthorised access to your systems, accounts, and sensitive data. When individuals choose passwords that are easily guessable such as "123456", "password," or other common words and phrases, they leave themselves vulnerable to brute force attacks, where automated tools systematically try various combinations until they find the right one. The reuse of passwords across multiple accounts only exacerbates this risk, as compromising one account can lead to the compromise of others. Effective password policies and user education on creating strong, unique passwords are absolutely crucial to plugging this security gap and enhancing your overall cybersecurity.

3. Unpatched Software and Systems

It’s essential that all software is kept up to date. Unpatched software poses a significant security risk, leaving your systems and applications vulnerable to flaws and exploits. Software vendors regularly release updates and patches to address identified zero-day vulnerabilities and improve the security of their products. If your business fails to quickly apply updates, you’re leaving the door open for criminals to exploit these weaknesses. This gap is incredibly common, and particularly concerning, because attackers actively search for unpatched systems, making them prime targets for unauthorised access, malware infections, and data breaches. Neglecting software patching not only increases the risk of a breach, but can also result in regulatory non-compliance and reputational catastrophe.

4. Inadequate Access Controls

Access controls are the mechanisms that determine who is allowed to access what within an organisation's IT environment. When these controls are poorly managed or improperly configured, it creates opportunities for both internal and external threats. Insufficient access controls can result in your employees having more access privileges than necessary (over-privilege), making it easier for them to misuse or accidentally expose sensitive data. Similarly, under-privilege can hinder productivity and lead to your employees seeking out workarounds that can compromise security. Cyber criminals often seek to exploit weak access controls to gain a foothold, before escalating and moving laterally to access valuable assets. Effective and accurate access control mechanisms are vital for enforcing the principle of least privilege, ensuring that users and systems only have the access that they need, reducing the attack surface and protecting against data breaches.

5. Insufficient Network Security

Network security encompasses various measures, such as firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems, and network segmentation, which are designed to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of your data and systems. When your network security is lacking or poorly configured, criminals can exploit vulnerabilities and gaps in your security posture to gain unauthorised access, disrupt operations, and/or steal sensitive information. Without robust network security, your business is more susceptible to malware infections, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, and unauthorised data exfiltration. As your network is the backbone of your IT systems, addressing this gap is fundamental to safeguarding your organisation's digital assets and maintaining business continuity in today's threat landscape.

6. Inadequate Logging and Monitoring

Providing valuable insights into network and system activities, and serving as one of your frontline defenses against cyber threats, logging and monitoring is absolutely essential for facilitating a quick response to security alerts.

If your operations are sub-par or insufficiently configured, it becomes challenging to identify abnormal or malicious behaviors, particularly novel threat patterns and zero-days, leaving your business unaware of potential breaches until they escalate.

In the event of a security incident, an absence of comprehensive logs makes it difficult to conduct forensic investigations, understand the extent of the breach, and develop strategies to prevent future attacks.

If you think that you have any flaws in your threat detection capabilities, leveraging a Managed SIEM solution is a powerful way to fill the gaps. Providing comprehensive 24/7 monitoring, a managed SIEM solution puts your threat detection operations in the hands of experienced security experts with access to the latest, most advanced tooling. This facilitates a rapid and accurate response to even the newest and most advanced threats, and allows you to optimise and reallocate your in-house resources to boost the operations that matter most.

7. Outdated Security Policies

Cyber threats and attack techniques are constantly evolving, making it imperative you’re your security policies and procedures keep pace. When security policies become outdated they fail to address emerging risks, leaving your organisation exposed to new, sophisticated cyber attacks. This results in a false sense of security; your employees will believe that they are following the best practices as outlined in your policies, while in reality those practices are no longer sufficient to protect against new threats.

Regulatory and compliance requirements are frequently updated to reflect changing security landscapes, and outdated policies can lead to non-compliance, which may result in legal and financial consequences. Therefore, you must regularly review, update, and adapt your security policies to align with current threats and best practices.

8. Third Party and Supply Chain Risks

This is a frequently overlooked gap that we’ve been seeing exploited in the media recently, with successful data breaches at Airbus and Greater Manchester Police resulting from cyber attacks at third party suppliers.

Third parties introduce external risks and dependencies into your security ecosystem; more third parties bring more risk. When you collaborate with third-party vendors, suppliers, or service providers, they’ll often share access to their systems, data, or networks. They may not align with your security standards and practices, making it challenging to ensure consistent security across the supply chain, and if these third parties do not have robust cyber security measures in place they can become points of access. To address this gap, you must assess the security posture of your third-party partners, establish clear security expectations through contracts and agreements, and monitor compliance to mitigate any risks. Failure to do so can lead to cascading vulnerabilities that threat actors can exploit to gain access to your sensitive information and systems.

9. Inadequate Incident Response Planning

If your response planning is inadequate, your organisations will be left ill-prepared to manage and mitigate security incidents once they’ve occurred. Cyber attacks and data breaches are no longer a matter of "if", but "when," making incident response planning a cornerstone of cybersecurity. Without a well-defined and tested incident response plan, you could experience delays in detecting, containing, and recovering from security incidents. This will result in prolonged system, and consequently operational, disruption, greater data exposure, and severe financial and reputational damage. Your incident response plan should not only outline roles and responsibilities, but also provide clear guidelines for identifying, classifying, and responding to different types of incidents. Regular testing and refinement of your plan ensures that you can respond swiftly and efficiently to minimise the impact of cyber threats, making it a crucial component of a robust and proactive security strategy.

10. Mobile Devices

Mobile devices introduce additional complexities and vulnerabilities into your organisation's digital environment. Employees often access sensitive data from various locations and networks, some of which may not be secure, whilst mobile devices can be easily lost or stolen which can potentially expose this confidential information.

Furthermore, the wide variety of device types, operating systems, and application ecosystems can make it challenging to enforce consistent security policies and configurations, and introduce risks of their own; malicious or poorly designed apps may compromise device security. Without robust and clear security policies, your organisation may struggle to secure these endpoints, making them susceptible to a range of mobile-specific threats. These security policies must be accompanied by security training, so that your staff know what to look out for and what to avoid.

Leveraging the Power of Managed Services

All of the above security gaps can be mitigated through managed cyber security services. Managed services optimise your resources, reduce your costs, and mitigate the risk of an incident causing disruption, meaning that you can reallocate your existing resources towards critical operations.

Providing you with access to advanced technology, expert security analysts, and continuous support, managed services can enhance and optimise all areas of your security strategy.

Cyber Resilience Assessment

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Celerity’s Cyber Resiliency Assessment is designed to identify gaps, strengths, & weaknesses against best practice requirements based on the NIST Cyber Security Framework, helping you to understand the risk and maturity level of your environment.

In turn, you’ll be able to create a plan to protect your business and streamline your data security processes, with a customised cyber resilience strategy that is fitted to your vision and mission.

Download the brochure here, or get in touch with us to learn about this free evaluation of your data protection strategy.

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