Top 15 Cybersecurity Metrics and KPIs for Better Security
by Douglas Bernardini
How can you ensure that your organization is safe against cyberattacks, hackers, and data breaches? The best way to attempt to do so is by having and following a number of cybersecurity metrics and KPIs.
Metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) act as a checklist that helps cybersecurity teams ensure the safety of their organization and its data. However, with limited information security reporting, it’s hard for chief information officers (CIOs) and chief information security officers (CISOs) to have a clear view of the cybersecurity situation.
That’s why many expect a rise in cybersecurity investments in 2022. Roughly 69% of organizations, in a survey by PwC, predict such an increase, up from 55% in 2021, according to data by PwC. Moreover, nearly 26% of companies surveyed expect cyber spending to rise by 10% or more this year, the data showed.
Organizations aren’t ignorant of the growing risks in online security. Over 50% of companies and agencies surveyed “expect a surge” in the number of incidents in 2022 compared to 2021, notes PwC.
To help you deliver efficient and practical cybersecurity reports, we’ll tackle the top 15 cybersecurity metrics and KPIs that you need to track to ensure your organization’s data and information security.
What are Cybersecurity Metrics?
Like business and strategy, cybersecurity comes with its metrics and KPIs that every business and organization needs to track.
There are subtle differences between cybersecurity metrics and cybersecurity KPIs. Cybersecurity metrics are bits of data that a company tracks on a day-to-day basis. They are business-as-usual data that offer value but may or may not drive decisions.
Cybersecurity teams should have a set of metrics that they track daily, weekly, or even monthly and annually.
What are KPIs for Cybersecurity?
On the other hand, key performance indicators (KPIs) are measures that have the most impact on driving your company or organization forward. KPIs “clearly articulate and provide insight into what your organization needs to measure and achieve to reach your long-term objectives.” (On Strategy HQ)
Using KPIs, cybersecurity leaders, including CIOs and CISOs, can see a larger view of their organization, what they’re doing right, what needs improvement, and what seems to be underperforming.
Armed with KPIs, cybersecurity managers and leaders can make important decisions to better secure and drive their organizations forward.
Why is Cybersecurity Metrics Important?
If you can’t measure your efforts, then you can’t make proper decisions. And that’s where cybersecurity metrics come in – to help CIOs and CISOs track progress and review their overall cybersecurity strategy. After all, cybersecurity isn’t a one-time event or even something teams should be doing once a year and hoping for the best. Cybersecurity is an ongoing process with metrics and KPIs used to track performance and drive decisions.
Using metrics, cybersecurity teams can:
– Track quantitative information so that they can showcase their efforts to protect the organization’s data and other technology assets.
– Review which of their efforts is proving useful, which need more work, and which need to be overhauled.
– Get a bigger and clearer picture of their organization’s security situation to make better and more informed decisions about the overall security of their organization.
Top 15 Cybersecurity Metrics & KPIs
Now let’s look at the top cybersecurity KPIs and metrics you need to track so you can make informed decisions for your organization.
1. Preparedness Level
Any company, agency, or business needs to see how well-prepared they are for any potential cybersecurity threat or attack. This means you should review the number of devices on your organization’s network and whether or not they are fully patched up and up-to-date. Should you find any outdated devices or those not fully-patched, you’ll need to ensure they are upgraded, patched, and not susceptible to vulnerabilities. Using vulnerability scans and vulnerability management tools are among the best ways to reduce vulnerability risk.
2. Security Incidents
The number of times a hacker – or several – has attempted to gain access or has breached your networks is called a security incident. And it’s an important KPI to track.
3. Uncover Unidentified Devices on your Internal Network
Another important cybersecurity key performance indicator is searching for any unidentified devices on your international network. Unfortunately, employees may unintentionally bring in malware and other cybersecurity risks when they bring devices from home such as a laptop or even a tablet. Having a network intrusion detection system can be helpful in this regard.
4. Intrusion Attempts
As a cybersecurity operative, you’ll need to keep an eye on any intrusion attempts to your organization’s network. Similarly, you can regularly review your firewall logs to see if anyone has unauthorized access to the network.
5. Mean-time Metrics and KPIs
These metrics focus on the time it takes to measure certain aspects pertaining to a cyberthreat. There are three Mean-Time metrics and KPIs every company or organization needs to measure in the event of a threat or attack.
- Mean-time-to-Detect (MTTD): How long does it take your cybersecurity team to detect a threat or data breach? This time taken is known as the Mean Time to Detect (MTTD) and it’s an essential KPI in your list of cybersecurity KPIs and metrics to track.
- Mean Time to Resolve (MTTR): Once your team has become aware of the security threat, they’ll need to resolve it. The time taken to respond to a cyberthreat is known as the Mean Time to Resolve (MTTR). The MTTR is an important KPI that indicates your team’s fast response to cybersecurity threats. MTTR is an important element in your incident response plan implementation.
- Mean Time to Contain (MTTC): The Mean Time to Contain (MTTC) measures the time taken to close an identified attack vector across all your organization’s endpoints. It’s the final stage after uncovering and identifying the cyber threat.
- Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF): Another Mean-Time metric is the Mean Time Between Failures which tracks the amount of time between a system or product failure.
- Mean Time to Acknowledge (MTTA): The MTTA is the time taken by your organization to acknowledge the incident or data breach and begin working on resolving it.
- Mean Time to Recovery (MTTR): Last but certainly not least is another MTTR which measures the amount of time your organization takes to recover after a product or system failure.
6. First Party Security Ratings
One of the best and easiest ways of communicating cybersecurity metrics to non-technical employees and colleagues is to use security ratings.
Use a letter-based grading system to review your organization’s cybersecurity position. Then communicate it to non-technical employees so they can understand the severity of the different threats.
Easy to understand, security ratings can support your cybersecurity risk assessment and indicate which information security metrics require your attention.
7. Average Vendor Security Rating
Generally speaking, cybersecurity threats aren’t limited to your company or agency, which means neither should your security metrics. Using vendor risk management along with a third-party risk management framework can help you secure your data and operations.
8. Patching Cadence
Hackers often exploit the time the company or organization takes to uncover a vulnerability or threat and patch it up. They also often exploit the time between patch releases and when the organization begins implementation. Patching cadence is a cybersecurity metric that measures the number of vulnerabilities your organization has in its system. It also includes the number of critical vulnerabilities that haven’t been patched yet.
9. Cybersecurity Awareness Training
As a cybersecurity leader, you need to stay ahead by maintaining your documentation for cybersecurity awareness training within your organization. Moreover, your cybersecurity awareness training should include all employee levels and grades within your company. Have the company’s recent hires received their cybersecurity awareness training? What about the firm’s top executives? Make sure you regularly conduct this type of training and constantly update its documentation.
10. Non-human Traffic (NHT)
The non-human traffic (NHT) metric is for company websites. If your company website suddenly sees an unprecedented surge in traffic – without major marketing campaigns running – it’s likely to be a bot attack.
11. Virus Monitoring
To ensure better security for your organization, you’ll need to monitor for potential viruses infiltrating your system. You can do this by having your antivirus software scan various applications including web browsers, email clients, and instant messaging software for malware.
12. Phishing Attacks
Phishing is becoming a growing problem for many businesses. Nearly 75% of breaches were due to phishing. However, there are no solutions that can detect or block 100% of phishing attacks. As a cybersecurity manager or as a CISO, you’ll need to make employees across your organization aware of what phishing is and how to avoid and block it to reduce damage to a minimum. This type of training is called phishing awareness training and helps employees understand what to look for so they can protect themselves and the company from phishing techniques and attacks.
13. Cost per Incident
The cost per incident is a metric that measures the cost of responding to and resolving a cyberattack.
Your cost per incident should cover employee overtime, reduction of employee productivity, suspension of certain activities, potential loss of communication with customers, system downtime, as well as the cost of investigating the attack.
14. Number of Incorrectly Configured SSL Certificates
Monitoring the security requirements for each SSL certificate and ensuring proper configuration is part of your cybersecurity team’s to-do list.
15. Data Transferred via the Corporate Network
Networks are a top target for cybercriminals because of the amount of data shared on them. That’s why one of your cybersecurity and information security metrics should be to track the volume of data transferred via the company’s network. If employees at your organization get unrestricted internet access, they’re likely to use this to download movies and games, which may pave the way for malware and botnets that can breach your firewall and security systems. Monitoring the volume of traffic will help you see if resources are being misused and if any malware is trying to break in.
Cyber attackers are constantly looking for ways to hack networks and conduct data breaches, making it harder for CIOs and CISOs to stay ahead. And since cyber attackers don’t sleep, neither do CIOs and CISOs, who are well aware that cybersecurity is a continuous effort that requires round-the-clock supervision. But that’s not all the cybersecurity industry needs. Cybersecurity leaders should come together to support the industry as a whole. As for smaller companies, they should focus on allocating funding and resources to bolster their data and information security.
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