Cybersecurity assessment basics - What are they and why do costs vary so much?

Cybersecurity assessments plays a key role in identifying potential areas of risk

Cybersecurity assessments plays a key role in identifying potential areas of risk

Cybersecurity is getting plenty of attention in the modern enterprise. Businesses face pressure from a wide array of regulatory bodies, are constantly exposed to data breach horror stories and must contend with new attack vectors emerging on a seemingly constant basis. This tension is enough to leave any business struggling to keep up, which is where cybersecurity assessments come in. A good evaluation will identify areas where your systems are vulnerable and make recommendations for how you can improve security.

For example, the U.S. Federal Government recently went out of its way to analyze its cybersecurity practices, identify areas of weakness and explore data protection practices prior to a major month-long security initiative.

 

“The cost variances associated with cybersecurity assessments can prove problematic.”

The benefits of this practice are straightforward - developing cybersecurity strategies gets easier when organizations understand where they are weak. The problem is that costs can be difficult to deal with, and not just because the expenses are high. Instead, the core problem facing businesses is the variance in costs associated with cybersecurity assessments. Different organizations may offer solutions with fees varying by thousands of dollars. All of this adds up to a difficult decision for businesses, and the key is to understand what your business needs and find an assessment that matches. It sounds simple enough, but the nature of cybersecurity assessments makes it a challenging prospect.

Considering the scope of cybersecurity assessments
Some of the price variance is because the security market is relatively new and the cost to retain security experts is fluctuating due to the high demand for trained personnel. The bulk of the cost variance associated with cybersecurity assessments stems from the wide range of areas to test. Options include:

  • Performing regulatory self audits to ensure data is being handled in compliance with industry standards that apply to your organization.
  • Monitoring the network and attempting to penetrate it in order to identify weak points or ways to get past firewalls.
  • Identifying if users are well equipped to identify and avoid phishing attempts and similar threats.
  • Delving into application and database architectures to identify all data workflows and potential areas where information is exposed to external threats.
  • Searching for malware or other embedded threats within enterprise systems and assessing the capabilities of existing anti-malware and anti-virus systems.

The list could go on, but the variety here showcases why costs can vary so much - each assessment may include significant differences in what they are actually evaluating. According to TechTarget, the scope of cybersecurity assessments can shift wildly, to the point that some organizations will entirely ignore key application or network environments. Usually this is done because businesses don't think those systems are at risk enough to justify the cost, but this same logic can apply when asking a third party to analyze your systems.

Each technology consultant will bring a slightly different approach to their cybersecurity testing. Some may try to provide a full, holistic solution while others may emphasize specific attack vectors or compliance with various regulations. This results in a situation where you're left analyzing the pricing models to figure out what you need and what you're actually getting. A technology consultant that works to truly partner with clients can be extremely advantageous here.

Dealing with cost variance through price transparency
Technology advisors that focus on helping customers find the right technology fit for their needs can provide an edge when it comes to cybersecurity assessments. Some service providers may be focused on selling a specific methodology that is tied to vendor ecosystems they work with, but consultants that focus on transparency are often best positioned to set clear expectations. 

The key here is that the consultant needs to take the time to get to know your business, understand what you want any security assessment to achieve and put together a package of evaluations that makes sense for you. This type of analysis ensures that you get a solution that meets your unique operational demands, making it easier to justify the expense and maximizing the value of the security testing.