Cyber hygiene describes a set of practices, behaviors and tools designed to keep the entire IT environment healthy and at peak performance—and more importantly, it is a critical line of defense. Your cyber hygiene tools, as with all other IT tools, should fit the purpose for which they’re intended, but ideally should deliver the scale, speed, and simplicity you need to keep your IT environment clean.
What works best is dependent on the organization. A Fortune 100 company will have a much bigger IT group than a firm with 1,000 employees, hence the emphasis on scalability. Conversely, a smaller company with a lean IT team would prioritize simplicity.
It’s also important to classify your systems. Which ones are business critical? And which ones are external versus internal facing? External facing systems will be subject to greater scrutiny.
In many cases, budget or habit will prevent you from updating certain tools. If you’re stuck with a tool you can’t get rid of, you need to understand how your ideal workflow can be supported. Any platform or tool can be evaluated against the scale, speed and simplicity criteria.
An anecdote about scale, speed and complexity
Imagine a large telecom company with millions of customers and a presence in nearly every business and consumer-facing digital service imaginable. If your organization is offering an IT tool or platform to customers like that, no question you’d love to get your foot in the door.
But look at it from the perspective of the telecom company. No tool they’ve ever purchased can handle the scale of their business. They’re always having to apply their existing tools to a subset of a subset of a subset of their environment.
Any tool can look great when it’s dealing with 200 systems. But when you get to the enterprise size, those three pillars are even more important. The tool must work at the scale, speed, and simplicity that meets your needs.
The danger of complacency
With all the thought leadership put into IT operations and security best practices, why is it that many organizations are content with having only 75% visibility into their endpoint environment? Or 75% of endpoints under management?
It’s because they’ve accepted failure as built into the tools and processes they’ve used over the years. If an organization wants to stick with the tools it has, it must:
- Realize their flaws and limitations
- Measure them on the scale, speed and simplicity criteria
- Determine the headcount required to do things properly
Organizations cannot remain attached to the way they’ve always done things. Technology changes too fast. The cliché of “future proof” is misleading. There’s no future proof. There’s only future adaptable.
Old data lies
To stay with the three criteria of strong cyber hygiene—scale, speed and simplicity—nothing is more critical than the currency of your data. Any software or practice that supports making decisions on old data should be suspect.
Analytics help IT and security teams make better decisions. When they don’t, the reason is usually a lack of quality data. And the quality issue is often around data freshness. In IT, old data is almost never accurate. So decisions based on it are very likely to be wrong. Regardless of the data set, whether it’s about patching, compliance, device configuration, vulnerabilities or threats, old data is unreliable.
The old data problem is compounded by the number of systems a typical large organization relies on today. Many tools we still use were made for a decades-old IT environment that no longer exists. Nevertheless, today tools are available to give us real-time data for IT analytics.
IT hygiene and network data capacity
Whether you’re a 1,000-endpoint or 100,000-endpoint organization, streaming huge quantities of real-time data will require network bandwidth to carry it. You may not have the infrastructure to handle real-time data from every system you’re operating. So, focus on the basics.
That means you need to understand and identify the core business services and applications that are most in need of fresh data. Those are the services that keep a business running. With that data, you can see what your IT operations and security posture look like for those systems. Prioritize. Use what you have wisely.
To simplify gathering the right data, streamline workflows
Once you’ve identified your core services, getting back to basics means streamlining workflows. Most organizations are in the mindset of “my tools dictate my workflow.” And that’s backward.
You want a high-performance network that has low vulnerability and strong threat response. You want tools that can service your core systems, do efficient patching, perform antivirus protection and manage recovery should there be a breach. That’s what your tooling should support. Your workflows should help you weed out the tools that are not a good operational fit for your business.
It’s clear the “new normal” will consist of remote, on-premises, and hybrid workforces. IT teams now have the experience to determine how to update and align processes and infrastructure without additional disruption.
Part of this evaluation process will center on the evaluation and procurement of tools that provide the scale, speed and simplicity necessary to manage operations in a hyper converged world while:
- Maintaining superior IT hygiene as a foundational best practice
- Assessing risk posture to inform technology and operational decisions
- Strengthening cybersecurity programs without impeding worker productivity
Dive deeper into cyber hygiene with this eBook.