Best Practices for Building a Cybersecurity Team

Best Practices for Building a Cybersecurity Team

On average, a cybercrime occurs every 39 seconds, and the annual global cost of cybercrime is projected to reach $10.5 trillion by 2025. If you don’t already have a cybersecurity team, these glaring statistics prove the urgency of establishing one.

A cybersecurity team consists of professionals with diverse skill sets whose combined efforts protect critical IT infrastructure from internal and external threats. Leading these teams you’ll often find a chief information security officer (CISO), chief information officer (CIO), or chief technology officer (CTO). Regardless of the title, this professional works with other team members to formulate and implement strategies and security policies.

Keep reading to discover how you can create a thriving cybersecurity team to protect your digital infrastructure and ensure data integrity and confidentiality.

Best practices for building a strong cybersecurity team:

Understand cybersecurity needs

Organizations have different cybersecurity needs, and you’ll want to ensure you understand your specific risks and assets so that you can assemble a cohesive and effective cybersecurity team.

Start by conducting a thorough assessment to identify the cyber risks you face in your operating sector. These vulnerability assessments help identify areas in your critical applications and systems that are likely to be targeted, as well as their threat vectors—the methods a cybercriminal will likely use to attempt to access the system.

Common cybersecurity threats and risks to consider include:

  • Malware infections. Installing malicious applications can lead to consequences like unauthorized access, service disruption, and theft of sensitive data.
  • Ransomware attacks. Attackers can gain access and encrypt critical data, then demand a ransom for the decryption key.
  • Phishing. Hackers can use email and other communication channels to trick users into divulging sensitive information like passwords, usernames, and credit card numbers.
  • Distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS). These cybercrime attacks limit individual access to crucial IT infrastructure. For instance, users can be blocked from accessing a specific system, leading to massive losses and service disruption.  
  • Credentials stuffing. This attack involves hackers trying to access multiple accounts using stolen credentials.
  • Insider threats. A cyber attack can also come from inside an organization, from disgruntled or careless employees or other stakeholders.
  • Man-in-the-middle attacks. Attackers can use sophisticated methods to intercept communication between different parties, which can lead to the leaking of sensitive data.
  • Cryptojacking. Malicious personnel can hijack critical systems and use the processing power to mine cryptos.
  • Social engineering attacks. In these attacks, personnel are tricked into divulging sensitive information by outside parties.

To better understand your cybersecurity needs, catalog all of your digital assets, including sensitive data, critical systems, hardware, and applications. This helps identify what’s at risk and the types of cybercrime threats you could face.

You also have to assess your team’s real-world, hands-on experience to determine your potential effectiveness in handling various cybersecurity challenges. Real-world experience allows you to quickly identify and react to potential cybercrime attacks, enabling fast response to minimize damage.

Apart from risk assessment, other cybersecurity needs you should address include:

  • Data protection. Ensure you have robust security measures to protect your confidential and sensitive information.
  • Network security. You have to monitor your networks regularly for suspicious activity. This will also require the installation of intrusion detection, prevention systems, and firewalls.
  • Identity and access management. To prevent hackers from accessing confidential information, incorporate strong multi-factor authentication systems.
  • Incident response. Cybercrime attacks can happen at any time. A clear plan outlining how you’ll respond to these events, including how and when to contact stakeholders and regulatory agencies, can minimize damage.
  • Third-party threat vectors. To ensure the security of your system, you need to monitor the security of your entire value chain. This includes the proper configuration of cloud storage solutions and third-party network devices, as well as the proper authentication of vendors who can access your systems.

Define the cybersecurity team’s role

Once you’ve identified your needs, outline roles your cybersecurity team will play. Typically, a cybersecurity team’s primary roles revolve around protecting sensitive data, ensuring compliance with different laws—including the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act—and managing IT infrastructure security.

Cybersecurity teams also perform thorough risk assessments to identify potential cybersecurity risks and vulnerabilities likely to affect your systems. Using risk mitigation strategies, they find solutions and preventive measures for various risks. Other essential roles include:

  • Surveillance. Monitoring organizational systems and networks for suspicious activity.
  • Problem-solving. Investigating security issues and implementing appropriate solutions.
  • Setting up security. Managing access controls to ensure only authorized personnel have access to sensitive data and systems.
  • Promoting safe practices. Training colleagues on the latest cybersecurity threats and best practices to increase safety.
  • Overseeing compliance. Ensuring the organization remains compliant with various security laws and industry regulations.
  • Regular updates. Updating the organization’s cybersecurity strategy to address emerging threats—such as those powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning.

After getting a general overview of what the team will do, determine the actual responsibilities each team member will have. For this process, write detailed job descriptions that clearly outline the specific roles.

The job descriptions should also highlight desired skill sets and certifications prospective team members should have to fill various positions. In the next section, we outline some of the ideal team members and the roles they play.

Identify ideal team members

A well-rounded cybersecurity team has team members with diverse skill sets and expertise who perform different roles effectively. Though the team structure may vary depending on the company size, industry, and cybersecurity needs, ideal experts typically include:

  • Chief information security officer (CISO). This professional leads cybersecurity efforts in the organization. A CISO coordinates activities for the cybersecurity team, collaborates with other leaders to align cybersecurity initiatives with business objectives, and implements cybersecurity strategies to increase the safety of organizational resources.
  • Incident responder. This expert focuses on managing cybersecurity incidents and implementing corrective actions. The incident responder can also perform forensic analyses to identify the causes of the cybersecurity incident.
  • Security architect. This professional is responsible for designing an organization’s security architecture. They create appropriate security guidelines and standards.
  • Security compliance analyst. This expert ensures an organization's activities comply with cybersecurity laws and regulations.
  • Identity and access management specialist. This personnel oversees how users access key systems and infrastructure so that only authenticated individuals can interact with protected resources.

Now that you’ve identified the positions you want to fill, the next step is to search for your ideal candidates. You can browse social platforms like LinkedIn to find professionals with the desired cybersecurity skills and experience. You can also leverage Upwork to connect your company with experienced freelancers with diverse skill sets to fill various roles on your team.

While searching for ideal team members, consider any degrees, certifications, and skills that cover areas like penetration testing, network security, and software development. You want to create a comprehensive team capable of effectively handling different types of threats.

The cybersecurity team can be composed of in-house experts, freelance professionals, or both, depending on your needs. Each group has their strengths and weaknesses.

In-house cybersecurity teams typically have a strong understanding of an organization’s processes, systems, and resources, and can respond quickly to threats. However, in-house teams can also have outdated skills and can become complacent to issues they see every day, and maintaining a team means paying salaries and benefits even when their specialized skills aren’t needed.

A team of freelancers, on the other hand, can be quickly scaled up or down, can be made to fit the range of specialized skills you need, and will bring to your company the value of a fresh pair of eyes. However, these team members will need to be on-boarded and won’t have the institutional knowledge of an in-house team, making them less ideal for handling emergencies in real-time.

Many companies benefit most by working with both in-house teams and outside freelancers or agencies. In-house experts run the day-to-day operations and quickly handle emergency threats. Freelancers or agencies can be brought in for threat assessments, to handle regulatory needs, or when special skills are needed on a short-term basis.

Offer training and certification opportunities

The cybersecurity landscape is evolving rapidly. New cyber threats and risks are continuously emerging and exposing organizations to negative consequences and financial burdens. For example, hackers are using artificial intelligence technology to create new forms of computer viruses capable of bypassing traditional security measures.

Offering training and certification opportunities can help your cybersecurity team respond to security incidents more effectively. By facilitating continuous learning initiatives, you make it possible for teams to keep up with evolving cybersecurity threats and technologies.

Consider enrolling team members in certifications for information security, SOC operations, and incident response. These certification programs ensure employees are aware of the latest industry standards and guidelines.

Here are some essential cybersecurity certifications:

Establish a security operations center (SOC)

Cyber threats and risks have the potential to cause significant damage to your resources and reputation. As a result, you need a dedicated security operations center (SOC) that allows you to give emerging cybersecurity issues the attention they deserve.

Establishing a SOC facilitates continuous monitoring of cybersecurity incidents, ensuring immediate and effective responses to threats. A SOC also makes it easier to coordinate cybersecurity efforts, meaning experts can be deployed to high-priority areas and departments faster.

As you create the security operations center, ensure it’s equipped with the latest security software and technologies to strengthen the organization’s security posture. Availability of specialized equipment makes it easier for the cybersecurity team to perform its primary role—protecting IT infrastructure from internal and external threats.

Some of the integral team members for establishing a SOC include:

  • SOC manager. This personnel is responsible for overseeing operations in the security operations center. The SOC manager coordinates the team’s effort, ensuring they align with overall cybersecurity strategies.
  • Security analysts. These team members actively monitor key processes, systems, and hardware for malicious activities and raise alarm when threats are detected.
  • Incident response personnel. These professionals act as first responders, providing immediate assistance to avert a full-blown crisis.
  • Threat intelligence analyst. This team member collects information about different threats and informs the rest of the team to promote effective cybersecurity decision-making.
  • Communications and public relations specialist. This individual is in charge of communication processes during security incidents to facilitate transparency and meet regulatory needs.  

Develop incident response and risk management capabilities

The average cost of a data breach in 2023 was $4.45 million. For companies that contained the breach in fewer than 30 days, that average dropped by more than a million dollars. Responding quickly to cyberattacks can save your organization money, as well as the pain of major disruptions. However, this requires forward-thinking plans designed to effectively manage and neutralize cyberattack activities as they occur.

A good incident response plan should cover the following sections:

  • Preparation stage. The incident response plan should highlight the different assessment tests that will be done to identify vulnerabilities and types of attacks. It should also list the high-priority cybersecurity systems and processes. Cybersecurity team members should have clear responsibilities to minimize confusion.
  • Identification. The plan should highlight the different methods the cybersecurity team will use to quickly identify ongoing threats and determine their severity.
  • Response. Once the cybersecurity team identifies an attack, it should quickly move to implement mitigation strategies. The plan should specify both short and long-term containment strategies. For instance, the team can use the network isolation technique to stop an attack from spreading.
  • Recovery. To avoid continuous losses, businesses should be able to bounce back quickly in case of cyberattacks. So, the incident response plan should highlight the strategies for business continuity.

Incorporating risk management practices into your business operations can help identify and remedy security risks before they escalate. This starts by performing thorough risk assessments and then nurturing a risk-aware culture in your organization.

You should educate employees on the different cybercrime threats and risks the company faces. Through such awareness initiatives, workers can contribute positively to incident response efforts by identifying suspicious activities and raising alarm.

To enhance your incident response and risk management capabilities, you need an experienced team with diverse skill sets. This includes a chief information security officer to provide required leadership, security analysts for continuous monitoring, and incident response personnel to quickly implement mitigation strategies.

Enhance existing security measures

Since cyberattacks and threats are constantly evolving, you should periodically update existing security measures to keep your digital infrastructure safe. Consider adopting proactive measures like regular audits, penetration testing, and vulnerability assessments.

And since most cyberattacks focus on stealing data, ensure you have appropriate data protection strategies in place. This includes measures like encryption, access controls, multi-factor authentication, and regular data backups to facilitate business continuity.

Additionally, secure all endpoints against unauthorized access to avoid data breaches or infiltration of key computer systems. Using robust firewalls and antivirus solutions to secure access points can help lower cases of ransomware and malware attacks. Security analysts can help you identify vulnerable areas and implement patches to bolster security.

Enhance your existing security measures further by using the latest security software and technologies for data protection. Plus, staying informed on cybersecurity trends and adopting best practices in security software development can facilitate long-term cybersecurity team success.

Measure impact and improve over time

Establish metrics to measure the effectiveness of your cybersecurity team and strategies over time. This allows you to gauge your overall performance and identify areas of improvement.

Performing regular audits can also help ensure you remain compliant with different data protection laws.

Since the cybersecurity landscape is ever-changing, cultivating a culture of continuous learning and adaptation can help the team deal with emerging cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities. You can also enhance your team members’ skills by exploring cybersecurity initiatives that enable them to engage in hands-on, real-world scenarios.

Build a cybersecurity team with Upwork

Building a successful cybersecurity team can help protect you from the many threats and vulnerabilities companies face today. By performing regular audits, such a team can ensure your data and critical systems are safe, facilitating business continuity.

Create a team of cybersecurity professionals with diverse skill sets. Focus on fostering effective communication and collaboration to increase the team’s productivity.

Investing in training and development programs can also ensure team members stay updated with the latest skills and experiences to deal with emerging issues. Collaborating with the chief information security officer and other experts can align cybersecurity initiatives with overall business objectives.

While maintaining an in-house team has its advantages, they often have gaps in their skill sets and can become complacent to issues they see every day. Upwork can connect you with qualified freelance cybersecurity developers ready to test your systems with a fresh set of eyes and to develop solutions that meet your needs. Get started today!

Upwork does not control, operate, or sponsor the other tools or services discussed in this article, which are only provided as potential options. Each reader and company should take the time to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situation.

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Best Practices for Building a Cybersecurity Team
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