Protecting your customers’ data directly affects your bottom line as an eCommerce business. Not only could you face costly penalties if data is compromised, but you can also say goodbye to a significant portion of your customer base if you lose their trust.
But with so many moving parts — thousands of credit card numbers stored on hundreds of servers worldwide, to scratch the surface — how do you know this data remains secure?
A great place to start is knowing your business’s security posture.
Understanding security posture is a major component of understanding eCommerce. Keep reading for more insight on security posture, including how to measure yours.
What Is Security Posture?
Security posture refers to the overall quality of your company’s data security.
Think of security posture as the sum of all components of your business’s data security measures: internal and external people, policies and processes, hardware and software, networks, and security controls.
If all of your data security safeguards are ironclad, there’s a good chance your security posture is too. However, if there is room for improvement in individual processes, so, too, could your overall security posture be improved, and vice versa.
Why Is Security Posture Important?
Knowing potential threats to your company’s data and how you stand up against them is imperative for your eCommerce business’s success.
Customers trust you with their sensitive information, including their home address, bank or credit card info, and email and password. Breaking this trust could spell big trouble for your reputation and profits.
On a more internal level, a strong security posture can comply with certain security frameworks.
Security Posture vs. Compliance
In addition to protecting customer data for financial or reputational purposes, you should have a good grasp of your business’s data security for legal and regulatory reasons.
As an eCommerce operation, your business is bound to the legal requirements set forth by the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). This information security framework applies to commercial entities that process, transmit, or store cardholder information.
A strong security posture does not automatically equate to full compliance with PCI DSS (or any other framework). But the steps to evaluating and strengthening your security posture may naturally lead to compliance. Similarly, taking steps to become or remain PCI DSS compliant may yield a stronger overall security posture. However, it’s essential to keep in mind that they are not intrinsically related.
Challenges to Security Posture
More than half of IT and security professionals admit that maintaining a solid security posture is becoming increasingly more difficult in recent years.
One key reason for this may be the growing number of access points to sensitive data. In addition, as your business evolves, you will be processing and storing more data on more computers with a larger workforce (not to mention new tech may necessitate moving all that data around), leaving more room for vulnerabilities.
Another challenge facing data security is a lack of robust training. Even with the best intentions, an easy mistake from an under-trained employee may set off a domino effect of security mishaps, which could mean serious legal, reputational, and financial trouble.
How To Evaluate Security Posture
There are four phases in evaluating your company’s security posture, starting with the most basic: preparing.
First things first: You should designate a project manager to oversee the evaluation process. We recommend identifying a trustworthy employee with thorough knowledge of the company’s data security measures, like a member of your IT team. If preferable, you can put together a small team instead of delegating the project to one specific person.
The project manager should then set the project’s scope, timeline, and goals.
Now it’s time to begin working on assessing your company’s security posture. For this phase, the project manager should take inventory of access points, policies for data access, employee permissions, documentation, and anything else that comes into play with your company’s data security.
This step aims to take a current pulse on the company’s security posture and practices. Once you have a thorough understanding of where your organization stands, you can begin to evaluate each piece of the puzzle accurately.
In this phase, you will “poke holes” in your security measures by acting as external threats and assessing how your business stands up to them. Again, some companies use a third party to perform this testing.
Don’t be too frantic if you discover wide gaps in your security measures — that’s why you’re identifying them now, so you can correct them moving forward.
Ideally, every business has maintained thorough documentation on security practices since its inception. However, whether that is true for your company or not, it’s more important than ever to record anything and everything throughout the evaluation process to accurately analyze — and act upon — your findings in this final phase.
With all security measures evaluated and analyzed, you can further understand and ultimately measure your company’s security posture.
Check out the flowchart at the end of this article to help guide you through this final step.
5 Ways to Stand Up Stronger Against Threats
With an ever-evolving landscape of digital data and associated risks, the following five tips are sure to come in handy when evaluating and improving your company’s security posture.
Maintain Accurate and Updated Records
It may seem obvious, but keeping documentation up to date sets you up for success in the future. Keep a detailed inventory of your security measures to reference them whenever you need them.
Records should list digital and physical assets, employee or third-party permissions, internal or external resources for keeping data secure, and access points. Revisit your list from Phase 1 above to ensure you’re not missing anything.
Plan Ahead for Risks
Once you know the threats your business may face, you can identify the severity.
Create a risk matrix by listing each potential risk and its business impact. These lists will help you determine where to focus your security efforts and create contingency plans.
Create Contingency Plans
For each risk you have identified, create a list of action items your business needs to take should that risk rear its ugly head.
Include clear instructions for each team member, how to secure each affected access point, how or where to report a data breach, and steps for ensuring this risk doesn’t happen again.
We recommend curating a designated home for all incident response plans, such as in a binder.
Train Employees Right and Regularly
We mentioned earlier that inadequate or outdated training is sometimes to blame for internal security flaws.
Ensure that this doesn’t describe your organization by providing thorough training to your workforce. In addition, training should be engaging and relevant to the team members participating — in other words, the front desk staff may require different security training than a network engineer.
Most importantly, revisit training with regularity. These trainings can happen annually, quarterly, or at whatever frequency works for your business. Providing refreshers ensures that data security is always top of mind for your team.
Continue to Monitor Data Security
Similar to how re-training employees can benefit data security, continuously monitoring your security posture helps your company stay proactive in identifying and responding to any vulnerabilities. Revisit the evaluation steps outlined above and perform internal audits at reasonable intervals to keep your data protected and your security posture aligned.
If only it were as easy as checking off “Keep data secure” from a to-do list. Understanding and maintaining your company’s security posture is a never-ending process but one of paramount importance. Your customers and your bottom line (and your legal and IT teams) will thank you.
Use the flowchart below, courtesy of cybersecurity experts Secureframe, to see where your business stands.