The relationship between security maturity and business enablement

May 12, 2020 | Tawnya Lancaster

A seminal report exploring the correlation between cybersecurity and positive business and security outcomes

leading organizations tend to be more mature

Now more than ever organizations globally want to better understand, manage, and minimize security risks. To achieve this, security leaders should be regularly assessing their processes and programs to gain a sense of their organization’s security maturity, where gaps exist, and what can be done to improve security posture.

In March 2020, AT&T Cybersecurity and Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) completed a benchmark survey aimed at helping organizations understand what a mature cybersecurity program looks like and how that maturity influences security and business outcomes.

Results from the 500 security professionals surveyed on their processes, policies, and controls were mapped into the NIST Cybersecurity Framework’s (CSF) five foundational cybersecurity functions: identify, protect, detect, respond, and recover.

The goal of this unique research was to validate if — and to what degree — organizations in better alignment with best practices prescribed by the NIST CSF can operate more secure environments and better enable their businesses. This was accomplished through the creation of a data-driven model that segments respondents into three levels of cybersecurity maturity:

  • Emerging organizations
  • Following organizations
  • Leading organizations

By comparing survey results across these levels, the model allows us to use data to quantify the differences in security and business outcomes that exist as maturity level improves.

One of the more interesting findings that came out of the research (and quite hopeful), is that cybersecurity maturity is not directly dependent on company size. One might assume only the largest organizations, with the most resources, would be able to implement a cybersecurity program sophisticated enough to achieve “leader” status. However, the research shows that the median company size is identical across all three maturity levels – “leading”, “following”, and “emerging.”

The fact that there is no correlation between company size and maturity level indicates to us that doing cybersecurity well is less a function of resources and more a function of thoughtful consideration, planning, and organizational culture. While technology and staff investments matter, the research indicates that organizations of any size can achieve a highly mature cybersecurity program.

To read these research findings, download the full report. There's also a nice infographic

In addition to our research, AT&T Cybersecurity and ESG have developed a free self-assessment tool that enables organizations to measure their security maturity based on the survey’s benchmark data and the NIST cybersecurity framework.

Take the free maturity assessment.

Tawnya Lancaster

About the Author: Tawnya Lancaster

Tawnya joined AlienVault as a Senior Product Marketing Manager in 2018. Previously, she served as the Director of Global Communications for Skybox Security, where she specialized in cybersecurity thought leadership for the vulnerability and threat management and firewall and security policy management space. She graduated from Oregon State University with a B.A. in English and has received certification in Stanford’s Professional Publishing course, an intensive program for established publishing and communication professionals.

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