66% of hacked businesses weren’t confident they could recover. Hacks target customer and employee information, which often includes financial information, mailing addresses, social security numbers, and other personal identifying information (PII).

This seems impossible to recover from. However, hackers also target something else:

  • Public trust
  • Belief in the integrity of your own systems
  • Progress on initiatives other than hack repair

You know the saying— that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In this case, it holds up! The time to test your organization’s cybersecurity is now, not after you’ve been hacked. The average cost of a ransomware attack is $84,116, so there’s no time to waste.

Penetration Testing

Penetration testing is when an organization hires cybersecurity experts to try to breach their IT environment to test the integrity of an implemented cybersecurity plan. In the ethical hacking world, it’s also referred to as pen-testing.

When an organization’s vulnerabilities are uncovered through a pen-test, these experts compile a report. This report is reviewed by the organization’s management along with the pen-test experts to prioritize and fix the gaps they discover. These fixes often include:

The values that third-party penetration testing provides includes, but is not limited to:

  • Gauging how minor vulnerabilities are leveraged, which turns them into large vulnerabilities that damage information systems
  • Identify weaknesses in an organization’s infrastructure due to inadequate or weak IT processes (e.g. patching, weak / default passwords, phishing, etc.)
  • Using tools to scan networks and application systems to pinpoint vulnerable points of entry

Security and Compliance Assessments

There are numerous industries where the security of their data is paramount. Healthcare, for example, is subject to mandatory compliance requirements by the federal government called HIPAA, which compels organizations and/or companies working in the healthcare industry to ensure they secure patient information, or personal health information (PHI), and protect it from compromise. How a given organization meets these requirements is up to the organization itself. HIPAA, for example, does not give any guidance on what technologies to choose. Rather, it provides a set of rules and regulations that an organization needs to meet to ensure it is raised to a sufficient standard of IT security to ensure the protection of the PHI data.

Not all compliances apply to a specific industry. Some countries and even US states have passed privacy regulations and compliances forcing businesses and organizations within their jurisdiction to abide by strict privacy rules. The California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA) and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) are some examples of legislative bodies passing compliance standards for their given state and continental bloc respectively.

Compliance is not just set by government entities either. Other organizations in unregulated industries often participate/abide by compliance standards set forth by independent bodies like PCI, ISO, and SOC. These compliances are compelling for many organizations in unregulated industries to prove they abide by a set of IT security best practices and meet a minimum standard of IT security set forth by these independent bodies. In other words, they become certified for meeting their respective compliance requirements.

For an organization to become certified, it must be independently audited by a third-party. If an organization passes their audit, they become certified, which allows them to avoid fines and penalties, improve their business reputation, and generate more business.


A Virtual Chief Information Security Officer (vCISO) is an “outsourced” IT security architect that supports organizations to develop a strategy and roadmap that will mature the security of an organization’s IT infrastructure. These are resources with a large depth and breadth of experience (typically over 10 or 15 years) that have a strong understanding of quickly identifying vulnerabilities and inefficiencies in an IT environment. vCISOs also focus on the people and processes that support an organization’s IT environment that could be vulnerable to exploitation.

Full-time security officers and architects are typically employed in enterprise organizations due to their niche expertise, but this does not mean that their expertise is only relevant for organizations at this scale. Small and mid-market organizations also benefit from security architect expertise, but often find themselves unable to afford these experts due to limited budget constraints.

A third-party vCISO allows your organization to receive the benefits of a senior-level security expert while drastically saving you on cost.

When seeking out a vCISO, make sure they are capable to:

  • Educate and supervise employees to ensure processes are rigidly maintained to reduce security risks when information is shared, or access is provided
  • Respond to incidents and provide code red disaster control
  • Develop, direct, and implement new policies
  • Ensure security compliance with all applicable industry regulations
  • Ensure digital environments are compliant with industry requirements
  • Provide a long-term roadmap/strategy for iterative IT security maturity

In short, hiring a vCISO guarantees your organization has the security expertise needed to improve security posture, drive growth with new security technologies, and identify solutions to meet specific requirements, all without having to spend an exorbitant amount of money.

Incident Response

77% of organizations don’t have a consistent, formal incident response plan. An incident response plan is a set of action plans, monitoring solutions, and an identified security team to address a security intrusion event. A proper response plan contains pre-incident, live-incident, and post-incident phases to address the entire lifecycle of a security incident event. This ensures your organization is adequately prepared in handling and mitigating the damaging effects of a security breach.

Excellent incident response involves the following:

  • Preparation
  • Detection and analysis
  • Containment and eradication
  • Post-incident recovery

The speed at which an organization responds to a security breach is vital in damage control. Enterprise organizations typically have a dedicated team, Security Operations Center (SOC), that ensure their network and infrastructure assets are continuously monitored and can immediately respond to an intrusion event. However, like a CISO, these teams are often expensive and out of budgetary reach of typical small, mid-market, and even nascent enterprises.

These organizations leverage outsourced SOCs – or a Virtual Security Operations Center (vSOC) – to receive the same coverage and speed as their established enterprise counterparts. These centers supervise your IT environment with data processing technology to be alerted of an intrusion event. It can include physical and digital security measures that combine technology and people to supervise your assets. They supervise red flags that crop up when they’re alerted to something malicious, which makes them the perfect security first response team.

Ensuring Your Organization’s Cybersecurity

From brute force attacks to phishing emails, hackers are constantly lurking. However, with the right experts at your side and a proactive approach, you can avoid most pitfalls. At Affirma, we’re ready to help your organization seamlessly navigate cybersecurity!

Cassie Barthuly is a Content Writer at Affirma.

Comments are closed.