When building your business’s cyber security environment, you’re likely to face an inevitable question: What actually goes in to a cyber security strategy?

You can’t just build a strategy out of random components and hope for the best. An effective cyber security strategy is difficult to formulate. However, with the right guidance you can create a resilient strategy that protects your business.

In this article, we’ll outline three elements that create a cyber security strategy. We’ll also describe how the Australian government approaches its cyber strategy and how this can be applied to business.

The three elements of an effective cyber security strategy are:

  1. Security Awareness
  2. Risk Prevention
  3. Data Management

But first, let’s take a look at what we mean by ‘cyber security strategy’.

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What is a Cyber Security Strategy?

A cyber security strategy is an action plan detailing how a business will protect itself from cyber threats. An effective cyber security strategy provides a blueprint on what to prioritise in order to achieve the desired goal of having a safe and secure cyber environment. As such, a good strategy is based on principles of cyber security and focuses on how resources should be allocated to align with the business’s cyber security goals.

Without a strategy in place, much of what we do is aimless and inefficient. This applies to any endeavour, not just cyber security. For instance, if you want to grow your business, do you start cherry-picking random sales-related elements and hope for the best? No, you make a dedicated business strategy with planned elements. So, let’s apply that same line of thinking to our cyber security.

“A well-planned and correctly implemented cyber security strategy will help your business avoid a huge amount of damage in the event of a cyber security incident.”

How Will It Affect My Business?

As a business-owner, it’s critical that you never underestimate the effect that a cyber incident could cause. A cyber incident could be any one of the following:

– Malicious Cyber Attack (e.g. via ransomware)
– Virus infecting your network
– Accidental data breach (e.g. sensitive information emailed to the wrong address)
– Successful phishing attack

There’s many different ways it could happen. But, how do these incidents cause damage, sometimes irreparable, to a business?

Financial Cost

The biggest source of damage is of course financial loss. Above all, whether intentional or accidental, a cyber incident will cost you a significant amount of time and money. This generally comes down to:

  • Investigative costs
  • Loss of productivity and sales
  • PR and legal costs
  • IT security auditing and security management

In 2022, the global average cost of a data breach hit USD 4.35 million, the highest it’s ever been. Compared to this, the cost of implementing an effective cyber security strategy is minimal.

Reputational Damage

Furthermore, additional damage to the business is often seen from reputation damage and loss of clients due to a breach of trust. Studies have found that up to 70% of consumers are likely to switch providers in the event of a data breach, regardless of who is at fault. That fact alone is enough to make anyone want to prevent a data breach.

Cyber Security Strategy

How To Build A Cyber Security Strategy

So, how do we prevent all this damage? With a rock-solid cyber security strategy, of course. A fully-comprehensive strategy will have plenty of elements and ways of approaching cyber security. So when we say the three magical elements, we are talking about the three core categories that cyber security strategy falls into. These categories are Security Awareness, Risk Prevention and Data Management.

An image detailing the three components of an effective cyber security strategy.
Cyber security strategy in 3 parts.

It’s not quite a Venn diagram, we know. However, in order to achieve a truly effective cyber security strategy, you need all three elements together. In other words, any two on their own aren’t insufficient to protect your data and your business. Let’s go over each category:

1. Security Awareness

Above all, cyber security awareness is about understanding your cyber security environment, identifying security vulnerabilities and creating a culture of cyber security within the workplace. Why is this an essential part of a cyber security strategy? Because ultimately, without this awareness, you’re just guessing at what needs to be done. Instead, with a good level of cyber security awareness, you can identify and and understand the cyber security threats that are relevant to your business, and how to protect your business from them.

Furthermore, when planning your cyber security strategy, you should begin with building your knowledge of your cyber security vulnerabilities. Essentially, it comes down to:

  1. Identifying what tools, devices and hardware in your business interact with sensitive business data.
  2. Analysing existing security controls.
  3. Running a vulnerability scan of the network.

Finally, creating a cyber security culture is vital to your cyber security awareness. Cyber security culture refers to the overall attitude, understanding, and value your business places on cyber security. An effective cyber security culture focuses on cyber secure people, and does not rely solely on technology for business defences.

In short, with a holistic understanding of your cyber security environment, you will be able to start identifying vulnerabilities; which gives you a great place to start in terms of implementing cyber security tools and policies. Developing cyber security awareness in your business will take time and needs frequent attention. It’s a vital to keep up to date with new threats so that your business is always prepared.

2. Risk Prevention

When we talk about risk prevention, we are talking about the cyber security tools and software that should be implemented as a first-line defence against cyber security incidents. For example, this includes tools like your anti-virus software, your firewall and your password manager.

We recommend following the ACSC’s protocol for mitigating security risks, known as the ‘essential eight’. Overall, these eight methods are an excellent starting point for cyber risk management, as it essentially covers areas where many cyber vulnerabilities lie.

An image describing the Essential Eight
The “Essential Eight” Strategies for Cyber Security

It should be clear why this is part of your cyber security strategy; because without it, you have no actual defences against cyber incidents. In addition, this part of your strategy should also cover a cyber security framework, which is a documented process used to define implementation and management policies of information security. This generally focuses on risk assessment and management within the cyber security environment.

Below is a list of IT security framework options.

An imaging displaying information security framework options

3. Data Management

When we talk about data management, we mean all the related protocols and security surrounding data. Certainly, malicious actors undertaking a cyber attack or data breach intend to steal or corrupt sensitive data, right? Data is a valuable commodity amongst attackers; whether it’s to publish or sell the data, or steal corporate secrets. As a business, you are responsible for significant amounts of data. Both internal business data, as well as potentially client-identifying information (addresses, medical information, financial details etc).

So, it’s clear that you need to protect and manage this data effectively. A full cyber security strategy should therefore include an excellent data management strategy too. Overall, there are three aspects of data management to watch for.

1. The way in which data is accessed by users.

2. The way in data is stored and secured within a system.

3. The way in which data is transferred between users and networks.

On that note, we recommend several best practice strategies that every business should include in their data management strategy:

An image describing some different data management strategies.

It’s worth noting that this is not a fully comprehensive list of data management strategies. However, it’s an excellent starting point in terms of securing and managing sensitive data within your business. In addition, consider aspects like what cloud service you use to store data, and implementing a consistent and tested backup and restore protocol.

Cyber Security Strategy in Australia

Cybercrime in Australia is an ongoing issue. However, with a number of cyber security focused agencies within the Australian government, it’s encouraging to see that we have adopted a cyber security strategy as a country. Most importantly, it shows that government agencies are learning to keep up with the modern cyber world; which inevitably means increasing cyber security and working to prevent attacks.

Likewise, many government agencies have developed their own internal cyber security strategy. That is to say, how they will work within the cyber security environment to provide optimal services and security.

Likewise, the Australian government’s cyber security strategy focuses on a number of goals designed to encompass the vision for a future cyber security environment. As a result, the approach of a nation-wide strategy does look very different to what you’d expect. Your cyber security strategy for your business is more results-focused on protecting your data and security. A nationwide cyber security strategy is goals-focused on working towards a cyber-secure environment.

“In the world of cyber security, if you are standing still you are going backwards. The cyber security environment is constantly evolving, and we need to be adaptive and proactive.”

– Dan Tehan, MP (Cyber Security Strategy, Annual Update 2017).

Actions By Government

  • Protect critical infrastructure, essential services and households.
  • Combat cyber crime, including on the dark web.
  • Protect Australian Government data and networks.
  • Share threat information.
  • Strengthen cyber security partnerships.
  • Support business to meet cyber security standards.
  • Enhance cyber security capabilities.

Actions By Businesses

  • Improve baseline security for critical infrastructure.
  • Uplift the cyber security of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs).
  • Provide secure products and services.
  • Grow a skilled workforce.
  • Take steps to block malicious activity at scale.

This is a just a summary of the Australian Government’s strategy. For more detail, you can check out the strategy here.

Building Your Cyber Security Strategy

So, while we’ve talked all about the core foundation of building a strong cyber security strategy; it can be daunting to start. Every strategy should include numerous methods of cyber protection. We have a comprehensive list of cyber security techniques and policies that every business owner should refer to when building their security strategy.

However, starting by yourself can seem like an overwhelming task. At Stanfield IT, we have experience with cyber security strategy. From cyber security auditing, planning a new strategy, project implementation and ongoing management we have a solution for you.

Contact our team today for a free 30-minute discussion on how you can improve your cyber security strategy.