What is Cybersecurity Consulting?

Author: Kelley Donald - MarCom/Tuesday, September 27, 2022/Categories: Business Internet

If you had told an executive a decade ago that their organization's data would someday be worth more than the value of its bank accounts, most likely, they would have looked at you in disbelief. That same state of disbelief is likely to happen if you tell that to the same person now. 

Take it up a notch and tell them that data could even be worth more than the entire business, maybe even two or three times more than the entire company could.

Your organization's data is a treasure, not just to you but also to anyone that can get their hands on it. During the pandemic, some businesses were able to collateralize their data for much-needed loans. 

Third-party appraisals valued the organization's data at two to three times the market value of the companies themselves. For example, United Airlines had a market value of $9 billion, but the data from its mileage program was appraised to have a value of $20 billion.

Knowing that you have an asset that might be worth more than the company itself, it's easy to see why it should be equally protected from cyber risks, just as the money in your bank account is protected. 

A cybersecurity consultant is the equivalent of a company that instructs others how to protect high-value assets, like art, people, or the money in your bank account. Let's talk about what cybersecurity services do to address cyber threats and why they need to come and ensure that one of your most valuable assets is secure.

 

What is Cybersecurity Consulting?

A cybersecurity consulting firm's focus is to assess your organization's computer systems, software, and network for vulnerabilities and provide security solutions. 

They focus on how the organization functions, how data is accumulated, where it is stored, how it might be accessed, and who accesses it. Then they design and implement solutions that best protect you and your data while fitting the company's operating needs.

Cybersecurity consulting services involve a wide range of expertise, and consultants can be generalists or specifically focused on one area of cyber threats and their security solutions. They will employ their knowledge of databases, hardware, networks, encryption, threat intelligence, and firewalls when looking at your specific infrastructure.

Beyond the layers of prevention, the cybersecurity consulting services firm will also institute protocols for a possible cyberattack. These protocols are designed to help you identify when an attack might occur using threat intelligence and what steps to take to stop or mitigate the damage.

Your consultant will be an ongoing resource to assist in detection and response and will always keep you up-to-date on the latest advancements in cyberattack prevention. Cybersecurity is an ongoing task needing daily attention, and your consulting services firm is there with you for the long haul. It must be part of your business model.

 

How Do They Assess My Data Security and Cyber Resilience?

Cybersecurity services firms will first learn the lay of the land and know the design of your network, what technologies are used, what systems handle which information, what information is stored, and where it is stored. The consulting firm will then look at how it is accessed, who accesses what, and where unintended access has gone unnoticed or could take place from their unique vantage point.

Next, they play the roles of both the attacker and the victim to test the current preventative measures and map a plan to harden access to security services and systems on the computer network from internal and external points. Their foremost goal is to prevent unauthorized access, modification, or loss of your valuable information.

 

What Certifications Should Cybersecurity Services Consultants Have?

There is no specific certification that cybersecurity consultants need to have, but more is better. Many will have earned a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science; others could be hackers who have devoted themselves to ethical hacking and fighting cybercrime through vulnerability management. Either way, you are getting someone dedicated to your information security.

Some certifications you might see behind your consultant's name include:

  • CompTIA Security+
  • Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+)
  • Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
  • EC-Council Certified Security Analyst (ECSA)
  • Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
  • Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP)

 

How to Evaluate Cybersecurity Firms

Before reaching out to firms, it is best to have a basic IT Risk Assessment, which is a document that:

  • Describes the consequences if an attack happens
  • Lists your IT assets
  • Tells all of the possible attack vectors
  • Describes or evaluate the likelihood you will suffer from each vector
  • States your plans to mitigate risk
  • States your assumption of certain risks
  • Describe your current incident response capabilities

Given that such an assessment is a service of cybersecurity firms, it's ok not to have a completed risk assessment. An informal list of your IT assets and safety concerns is a great starting point.

Additionally, you should know where you think you need the most help with the administrative tasks of cybersecurity and cyber risk management. Depending on the size of your organization, you could need full-time help monitoring software updates, establishing user privileges, managing cyber risk, and administering training to your employees.

 

Evaluate the Consultants

These exercises are a way to evaluate their team and ensure they understand the needs specific to your business and have the skills to craft a risk assessment specific to you and support you through the process and beyond. Look to firms that have people able to take complex technical terms and subjects and express them in ways you and your people understand.

 

Consider Their Clients and Work

It is a good bet that a team that works with other outstanding organizations provides high-quality service. Ask for references and a list of clients. A few calls can tell you a lot.

 

Make Sure They Have the Necessary Industry Qualifications for Your Situation

If you're in the healthcare industry, HIPAA experience is essential to know that your IT is meeting standards and industry standards. Those companies managing payments will want expertise in PCI DSS, and federal contractors must look for FISMA experience. Other industries often have their own specific standards or recommendations.

 

Training Support

Does the consulting services firm offer training for your employees? It's not enough to know that your systems are hardened and resilient; the practices of employees can unintentionally compromise your information, and they need to be informed of best practices. Training resources might include:

  • Online webinars
  • In house training
  • Instructional materials customized to your company
  • Pre Recorded videos

 

Responsiveness and Flexibility

Security breaches do not stick to business hours. 24/7 support and ongoing advisory services are a requirement when it comes to vulnerability management, not a luxury.

A partner that is responsive to your needs is crucial. A software update or an addition to your network cannot sit and wait to be secured. When new threats or vulnerabilities arise, a firm that is there now and provides ongoing advisory services is essential.

 

Monitoring

Monitoring your data security through managed security services is a key risk management service that needs to be offered by the cybersecurity consulting services firm. Your cybersecurity consultants should give you the flexibility of installed and configured solutions for in-house or off-site monitoring and incident response.

 

A good cybersecurity consulting services firm will offer:

  • Security Incident and Event Monitoring (SIEM)
  • Intrusion Detection System (IDS)
  • Network Behavior Analysis (NBA)
  • Endpoint Detection and Response

 

Field Penetration Testing

It is not enough for a service to institute a solution and wait to see how well it blocks attempts to compromise your IT infrastructure. Penetration testing by your cybersecurity consultants that employ fake attacks ensures your systems are ready now.

Additional testing will include the testing of employees through social engineering and phishing tests. A fake phishing email will produce a report of how many employees respond. Staged attacks will test your team for their response.

 

The Pros and Cons of Cybersecurity Firms

Large organizations might prefer to have in-house cybersecurity teams handle their risk management due to the size and complexity of their IT infrastructure and the information stored within it. They are large enough that the expense of a full-time team is not a strain on the organization. 

 

For them, any cybersecurity consulting services firm might have the drawback of not responding fast enough. Even then, getting an outside evaluation from a great cybersecurity consulting services firm is still a considerable benefit to ensure their in-house team is up to the task.

For smaller and medium-sized firms, the cost of a full-time team can be untenable. A consulting services firm is a great value, offering affordable monthly plans to access true professionals.

 

Summary

Regardless of your business size, industry, or complexity, cybersecurity consulting is essential to protecting what is possibly your most valuable asset. Knowing what your consultant does and what to look for in a firm will help you find the best fit for you. 

If you do not currently have a dedicated team or have not retained the services of a cybersecurity consulting services firm, the sooner you do the better. There is no such thing as being too safe when protecting your organization from cybercriminals.

 

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