Yet far too many companies focus on the two components of risk that are typically internal to their networks: assets and most of all, vulnerabilities. With a slew of media articles coming out on vulnerabilities every week, it's easy to get sidetracked, said Eric W. Cowperthwaite, chief information security officer for Providence Health & Services.
"We tend to run around screaming how the sky is falling about stuff that is not a big deal," says Cowperthwaite. "I don't see how you can credibly inform your defense or your leadership about the threats if you don't know what your threats are."
Increasingly, security professionals advise companies to do their homework and gauge what threats may be targeting their networks and data. At last month's SOURCE Boston security conference, for example, one consultant pointed out that most defenders wait behind their firewalls for the attackers--effectively giving up the initiative. Companies instead need to model the threats to their network and gather intelligence on possible adversaries.
To that end, a good start is for companies to make a short list of the threats they face to their business, said Cowperthwaite. Not just cybercriminals and online adversaries, but other events that could cripple the company. Most companies will find that advanced persistent threats and hacktivists are likely not among their major worries.
"If you don't have that list, then I think that you have a problem," Cowperthwaite said. "Earthquakes, volcanoes, cybercriminals, accidental insiders--there are six, seven things that are significant threats for me. And then I have to look at how they pair up with vulnerabilities to create risk, and I'm not going to tell you that [the risk is] the Chinese government."
Here are four steps that companies should be taking to better understand the threats to their business.
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