In the ever-evolving landscape of cybersecurity, small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) face significant challenges in safeguarding their digital assets. With limited resources and growing threats, understanding where to start and how much it will cost to implement effective cyber defenses is crucial. The Center for Internet Security (CIS) has provided a comprehensive guide titled "The Cost of Cyber Defense: Implementation Group 1" (August 2023) to address these concerns. This blog post delves into the key insights from the guide, helping SMEs navigate the complexities of cybersecurity.

Why Cyber Defense Matters for SMEs

Every enterprise, regardless of size, is a potential target for cyberattacks. SMEs, in particular, may not have the extensive resources of larger organizations, making them seemingly easier targets. Implementing robust cybersecurity measures is not just a necessity but a foundation for sustainable growth and trust.

Understanding CIS Controls and Implementation Group 1

The CIS Critical Security Controls (CIS Controls) are a prioritized set of actions designed to form an effective cyber defense program. CIS recommends starting with Implementation Group 1 (IG1), which includes essential cyber hygiene practices that every enterprise should adopt. These safeguards are tailored to provide a reasonable starting point at a reasonable cost.

Key Questions Answered

The CIS guide helps SMEs answer three critical questions:

  1. Which protections will we start with?
  2. Which tools will be needed to implement those protections?
  3. How much will implementation cost?

Methodology: Breaking Down the Costs

CIS categorizes the IG1 Safeguards into ten areas of activity:

  1. Asset Management
  2. Data Management
  3. Secure Configurations
  4. Account and Access Control Management
  5. Vulnerability Management
  6. Log Management
  7. Malware Defense
  8. Data Recovery
  9. Security Training
  10. Incident Response

Each category includes specific tools and policies needed to implement the safeguards. CIS has created three hypothetical enterprise profiles (Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3) to estimate costs based on the size and needs of different organizations.

Cost Estimates for IG1 Implementation

CIS's cost analysis reveals that implementing IG1 Safeguards should be less than 20% of an enterprise's IT budget. Here's a brief overview of the cost ranges for each category for a Tier 1 enterprise (1 to 10 employees):

  1. Asset Management: $0 - $2,044
  2. Data Management: $0 - $14,566
  3. Secure Configurations: $0 - $9,008
  4. Account and Access Control Management: $0 - $4,025
  5. Vulnerability Management: $0 - $1,969
  6. Log Management: $0 - $2,520
  7. Malware Defense: $0 - $1,399
  8. Data Recovery: $0 - $2,143
  9. Security Training: $0 - $450
  10. Incident Response: $0

Tooling and Policies: A Closer Look

For each category, the guide identifies specific tools and policies needed. For example, in Asset Management, an enterprise may need an Enterprise and Software Asset Management Tool and a Service Provider Management Tool. Costs can vary widely based on the choice of tools, whether they are open-source, commercially supported, or no-cost.

Your MSP and Basic Cyber Hygiene

If you are working with a Managed Service Provider (MSP), it's crucial to ensure they are incorporating basic cyber hygiene practices from IG1 into their current plan. These essential safeguards should form the foundation of your cybersecurity strategy. Here are some actions your MSP should be taking:

  1. Asset Management: Regularly updating and maintaining an inventory of all assets.
  2. Data Management: Ensuring sensitive data is identified, encrypted, and securely disposed of when no longer needed.
  3. Secure Configurations: Applying secure configuration settings to all systems and devices.
  4. Account and Access Control Management: Implementing strong password policies, multi-factor authentication, and regular audits of user accounts.
  5. Vulnerability Management: Regularly scanning for and patching vulnerabilities in your systems.
  6. Log Management: Collecting and analyzing logs to detect potential security incidents.
  7. Malware Defense: Deploying and maintaining up-to-date anti-malware software.
  8. Data Recovery: Ensuring regular backups are taken and can be quickly restored in case of an incident.
  9. Security Training: Providing regular cybersecurity training for all employees.
  10. Incident Response: Having a clear incident response plan in place to quickly address and mitigate security incidents.

Implementation Tips for SMEs

  1. Start with a Policy:Establish clear policies for each category before selecting tools. This ensures that your cybersecurity strategy is structured and effective.
  2. Assess Existing Tools: Review your current tools and determine if they can be leveraged to meet IG1 Safeguards.
  3. Automate Where Possible: Automation can save time and reduce the risk of human error. Consider tools that offer automated solutions for tasks like patch management and log management.
  4. Prioritize Training: Cybersecurity is not just about tools but also about people. Regular training can help employees recognize and respond to threats effectively.
  5. Plan for Incident Response: Even with the best defenses, incidents can occur. Having a robust incident response plan can minimize damage and ensure a quick recovery.

Conclusion: Building a Cyber-Resilient Future

The CIS guide provides a practical and cost-effective roadmap for SMEs to enhance their cybersecurity posture. By implementing IG1 Safeguards, enterprises can defend against a wide array of threats with a relatively small number of tools and resources. As cybersecurity becomes increasingly critical, taking these foundational steps will not only protect your business but also build trust with customers and stakeholders.

For SMEs looking to start their cybersecurity journey, the CIS guide is an invaluable resource, offering detailed insights and actionable recommendations. Don't wait until you become a victim of a cyberattack—start building your defenses today.

Learn More

For more detailed cost estimates, tool recommendations, and implementation strategies, refer to the full CIS guide: The Cost of Cyber Defense: Implementation Group 1.

By understanding and applying these essential cyber hygiene practices, SMEs can navigate the complexities of cybersecurity with confidence and resilience. Make sure your MSP is aligned with these practices to ensure a robust cybersecurity framework for your enterprise.

Ready to Strengthen Your Cyber Defense?

Take the first step towards securing your business by scheduling a consultation with us. We will help you implement these essential cyber hygiene practices and ensure your MSP is providing the necessary protections. Book your consultation now.