Ten Essential Elements of Your Cybersecurity Infrastructure

Published August 21, 2023
by Jordan Hickam

In today’s landscape, public agencies and institutions often require providers, including cloud Service Providers (SPs), to adhere to specific regulatory requirements and maintain certain security certifications or qualifications to secure government contracts. To increase their chances of working with the public sector and enhance their capabilities, providers must prioritize a robust cybersecurity infrastructure that incorporates the latest technologies and follows industry best practices. This post highlights ten essential elements to improve your cybersecurity infrastructure.

  1. Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) Tools

SIEM tools combine security information management (SIM), which refers to how an organization collects and logs data, and security event management (SEM), which includes real-time system monitoring. SIEM solutions can collect and analyze a massive amount of security log data from various sources and provide real-time insights into potential threats while enabling a proactive response.

In the past decade, advanced SIEM technology has evolved to incorporate artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms. SIEM systems can mitigate organizations’ cybersecurity risk by detecting suspicious activity, monitoring user behavior, limiting unauthorized access, and automatically providing early threat detection with security alerts. SIEM systems can be expensive and take a long time to implement fully. Still, they significantly shorten the time necessary to identify potential threats, minimizing or eliminating the damage they may cause. 

  1. Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS)

Intrusion detection systems can analyze network traffic and send alerts to users whenever they identify suspicious traffic or potential attack patterns such as botnets, distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, and ransomware. IDSs are vital for quickly detecting and alerting stakeholders of cybersecurity threats, and are categorized into two types based on where exactly their sensors are placed:

  • A network intrusion detection system (NIDS) is placed at strategic points within networks to analyze traffic to and from all devices connected to the network. Monitoring both inbound and outbound traffic, any malicious or suspicious activity is compared to known attack patterns and immediately reported to an administrator if deemed a threat.
  • A host intrusion detection system (HIDS) is located on all networked hosts, endpoints, and all devices connected to the internet and organizations’ internal networks. A HIDS solution can detect threats coming within an organization itself and other malicious traffic a NIDS solution may miss, such as an internal malware infection trying to spread and access other operating systems.

Both formats of IDSs can utilize either of the two main methods of threat detection:

  • Signature-based intrusion detection systems (SIDS) monitor all activity and compare it with attack signatures in databases of known threats. This method is effective, but has its limits in that it will only recognize attacks matching those already cataloged and can miss many “day one” attacks.
  • Anomaly-based intrusion detection systems (AIDS) monitor all traffic activity and compare it against a predefined baseline of “normal,” trustworthy activity. They detect anomalous activity and behavior across a network, including bandwidth, devices, ports, and protocols. Many vendors are integrating AI and machine learning to help AIDS solutions better discover new, evolving threats, such as new types of malware, that many SIDS options will miss.
  1. Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS) 

As IDS programs are strictly diagnostic tools, they can recognize and create notifications for malicious activity, but not block it from entering an organization’s network. Intrusion prevention systems act as both diagnostic and incident-response tools, able to not only flag bad traffic but also prevent it from interacting with and disrupting the network.

IPS tools monitor and analyze network traffic to respond to potential intrusions in real time. They guard public- and private-sector organizations’ tech infrastructure and sensitive data while giving security personnel a bird’s eye view of their systems.

IPS solutions have become a necessity for almost every organization’s cybersecurity infrastructure. Often working in tandem with firewalls, four types of IPS technologies differentiate themselves primarily through the types of events they monitor and their method of deployment:

  • Network-based intrusion prevention systems (NIPS) monitor a network’s inbound and outbound traffic, analyzing network protocol activities to identify any suspicious activity. If a protocol activity matches against a database of known attacks, the network blocks it.
  • Wireless intrusion prevention systems (WIPS) monitor a wireless network’s traffic, analyze the activities, detect suspicious activities involving wireless networking protocols, and prevent them. 
  • Network behavior analysis (NBA) systems examine network traffic to identify threats generating unusual traffic patterns, such as distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks or certain malware-generated attacks.
  • Host-based intrusion prevention systems (HIPS) are security tool that protects computer systems and networks from various threats, including unauthorized access, malware, and other malicious activities. A HIPS operates at the host level, which means it is installed and runs directly on individual computers or servers rather than network devices like routers or firewalls.
  1. Vulnerability Scanners

Vulnerability scanners are tools that examine systems, applications, and environments for vulnerabilities, security flaws, or misconfigurations, allowing organizations to address them. These scanners help automate the process of discovering weaknesses and misconfigurations that could be exploited by attackers. 

Vulnerability scanning tools are typically highly customizable, letting organizations configure the scans for specific issues or targeted requirements. Effective vulnerability scanners provide organizations with a view of their sensitive systems and internal applications from the perspective of a potential hacker or cybercriminal searching for weaknesses to exploit. Many tools can provide continuous, uninterrupted scanning for nonstop protection and monitoring, making it much easier for vulnerabilities to be detected before they become a major liability. 

  1. Configuration Management Tools

These tools help secure configuration standards and provide automation capabilities to streamline and manage configurations across a large-scale cloud infrastructure. They enable consistent and controlled configurations, eliminating variations that can introduce security weaknesses or inconsistencies. 

Some configuration management tools can scan cloud resources and identify deviations from security best practices, providing audits that track changes and detailed reports of areas requiring further attention. By enhancing their cybersecurity infrastructure through automated processes for implementing consistent and controlled configurations, SPs can significantly reduce their risks of misconfigurations and better protect their cloud environment and customer data.

  1. Encryption and Key Management Tools

Providers entrusted with private or sensitive data should employ robust encryption algorithms to protect data at rest and in transit. Encryption key management (EKM) software tools allow for the distribution and management of encryption keys, reducing risks associated with third-party vendors. 

Flexible EKM tools are especially essential for organizations employing a mixture of on-site, virtual, and cloud systems that must utilize encryption or decryption keys. Smart management of encryption keys enables growing organizations to scale their encryption capabilities over time.

  1. Threat Intelligence Feeds

Threat intelligence feeds provide valuable information about emerging threats, prevalent known attack patterns, malicious IP addresses, and activities. By leveraging curated data from security researchers, industry experts, security vendors, and global cybersecurity communities, organizations can stay up to date with the latest threats and proactively defend against evolving cyberattacks.

Change is a constant in cybersecurity, with bad-faith hackers and cybercriminals always evolving their tactics and tools for sophisticated cyberattacks. Staying up to date on and ahead of the industry’s latest developments and trends can prove to be a significant competitive advantage.

  1. Compliance and Governance Frameworks

Additional boosts to both your cybersecurity infrastructure and industry reputation can be gained through implementing widely recognized and respected standards, guidelines, and best practices. 

The NIST Cybersecurity Framework is one of the most widely used security standards, and following its guidelines is a requirement for working with all federal agencies. Implementing similar frameworks and standards such as ISO 27001, or best practices from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) or Cloud Security Alliance (CSA), are additional ways for providers to comply with regulatory requirements and signal to prospective partners their commitment to strong cybersecurity.

  1. Staff Cybersecurity Awareness and Training

Organizations’ cybersecurity infrastructure is only as strong as the personnel managing, maintaining, and using it daily.

Educating all employees on all internal cybersecurity best practices and policies is crucial for maintaining a strong cybersecurity posture. By raising awareness of potential threats and fostering a culture that prioritizes training and security, organizations strengthen their human element of cybersecurity. 

  1. Industry Certifications and Audits

Many agencies require providers to achieve and maintain relevant industry certifications to prove and verify their capabilities within the cybersecurity space. Certifications such as FedRAMP, StateRAMP, SOC 2, or ISO 27001 are a wise investment for many providers, demonstrating a commitment to industry-leading cybersecurity and providing a valuable advantage when pursuing public agency contracts.

Developing a resilient and advanced cybersecurity infrastructure demands consistent dedication and a proactive mindset. It’s an ongoing process that should involve constantly reviewing, reassessing, and updating your systems and applications with new tools.

By embracing innovative solutions in your infrastructure today, you can effectively stay ahead of the ever-changing landscape of emerging cybersecurity threats. Contact us to learn more about the RAMPxchange marketplace, where public agencies and private providers are connecting and collaborating to proactively improve the world’s cybersecurity posture.