What Is A Cybersecurity Maturity Model?

Frank DePrisco of ConnectWise discusses how managed security service providers can make an effective maturity model for cybersecurity

A cybersecurity maturity model is a “road map” whose function is to guide you toward the healthy and robust protection of your client’s digital assets. MSPs can consult their maturity model to assess their progress and improve their cybersecurity tactics when necessary.

A complete, detailed cybersecurity maturity model is also useful for engaging other organisational stakeholders. By providing a clear-cut presentation of where the organisation is falling short and what needs to be done to meet cybersecurity goals, MSPs and other IT professionals will have an easier time getting company-wide buy-in for major investments in cyber threat protection.

Making an effective maturity model requires some in-depth knowledge and planning. MSPs need to configure their model carefully, and they also need to ensure their model contains the correct components.

Use the article below as your team’s in-depth resource on cybersecurity maturity models. We’ll take a deep dive into what they are, what basic components you need, why they’re important, and more. There’s a lot of information to cover, though, so let’s get going.

The key components of a cybersecurity maturity model

MSPs working on implementing a cybersecurity maturity model for their clients have two general formats to choose from: the cybersecurity capability maturity model (C2M2) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology cybersecurity framework (NIST CSF). Both models are effective in assessing the success of your cybersecurity efforts, but they each take a slightly different approach and focus on slightly different metrics.

The C2M2 maturity model focuses on these 10 key components:

  • Asset change or configuration management – Logging an organisation’s inventory of IT assets, tracking changes to these assets, and establishing a benchmark configuration for their use
  • Identity and access management – Distributing and managing user accounts and system access permissions
  • Threat vulnerability management – Proactively identifying and remedying potential cyber threats and system vulnerabilities
  • Situational awareness – Tracking and assessing an organisation’s current state of cybersecurity in terms that can then be relayed to company stakeholders
  • Information sharing and communications – Reporting cybersecurity intel to external and internal stakeholders, and participating in industry analysis organisations
  • Risk management – Establishing a plan to mitigate and evolve an organisation’s ability to mitigate cybersecurity risks
  • Event and incident response – Identifying and responding to incidents, implementing response plans, and ensuring operations remain up and running while incidents are dealt with
  • Workforce management and cybersecurity program management – Ensuring employees are aware of cybersecurity best practices, training cybersecurity team members, and assigning cybersecurity roles
  • Supply chain and external dependencies management – Evaluating third-party vendors who rely on the organisation’s system and setting cybersecurity protocols to govern their interactions
  • Continuity of operations – Assigning roles and responsibilities in the event of a cybersecurity event, creating backup and testing protocols

The NIST maturity model, on the other hand, focuses on these 5 vital areas of cybersecurity performance:

  • Identify – identify your client’s critical functions and any cyber threats that could damage those functions.
  • Protect – prioritise cybersecurity efforts in accordance with the business’s critical functions. This leaves you better prepared to contain the potential impact of any breaches to your client’s IT infrastructure.
  • Detect – assess where the cybersecurity framework has been infiltrated and determine the cause of the breach. Once the cause and type of breach are discovered, take any necessary action steps.
  • Respond – Response should be quick. The longer the dwell time in the system, the greater the damage can be. This step also determines the actions the team should take based on the type and significance of the breach.
  • Recover – Restore any data or services that may have been lost or corrupted due to the breach. You’ll also communicate with your client, as well as any internal or external stakeholders, and inform them of the incident. MSPs will also analyse breach data to determine opportunities for optimisation during this stage.

While it may seem less detailed, the NIST CSF framework uses this design for a purpose. Each level represents a “tier” in your overall cybersecurity performance. The tiers listed represent a natural progression from more reactive, less-informed cybersecurity tasks to more agile and data-driven approaches. As your client’s cybersecurity evolves through the tiers, it will indicate improvements in the system’s level of maturity.

The beauty of both C2M2 and the NIST cybersecurity framework is that they’re both self-assessments. As an MSP, you and your client can regularly conduct and review the data from these tests and recalibrate accordingly.

Whichever assessment you choose, once it’s complete, you should have a clear idea of your client’s current level of cybersecurity maturity. From there, your goal as an MSP is to work with your clients and your team to improve cybersecurity measures and KPI accuracy.

The cybersecurity maturity model’s history

Originally, the C2M2 cybersecurity framework was designed and implemented by the U.S. Department of Energy. The goal was to provide power and utility companies with a tool to assess their security to avoid major outages or service interruptions.

Regarding IT, cybersecurity maturity models began to take shape in the mid-1980s. The first model we see widely adopted is the Watts Humphrey Capability Maturity Model. His framework took an earlier model, the Quality Management Maturity Grid, and expanded it to serve software teams of the time.

Humphrey’s maturity model assessed government contractors’ success in designing and implementing their software projects. Eventually, Humphrey’s software framework would be applied to other areas of IT, like cybersecurity. His work is responsible for much of the language used to discuss cybersecurity today and also helped to shape the popular C2M2 and NIST CSF frameworks we rely on in today’s IT environment.

Benefits of a cybersecurity maturity model for MSPs

Unfortunately, many MSPs and IT professionals take an “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach to their clients’ cybersecurity. As long as major threats are being defended against, they don’t feel the need to assess their current cybersecurity measures and act on optimisation opportunities.

If this sounds like you, you may be missing out on several ways you can make significant positive impacts for your clients. Take a look at the benefits of implementing a cybersecurity maturity model that you may be overlooking.

  1. Making the most out of cybersecurity investments

Using a maturity assessment model as your guide can help streamline your cybersecurity system. By using the model as a “road map,” MSPs can eliminate redundancies and find opportunities to replace outdated tools within their cybersecurity framework.

Many cybersecurity teams are singularly-focused and funnel all of their financial resources toward one particular security measure or threat. Using your cybersecurity capability maturity model as your one source of truth allows you to redirect financial resources toward a more holistic cybersecurity approach – giving your clients the robust IT asset protection they deserve.

  1. Improving your best practices by comparison

The data from your C2M2 or NIST CSF maturity model can give you clarity and serve as a benchmark for where you stand compared to other cybersecurity pros. You’ll be able to easily compare your results to that of your peers and discover where you currently stand compared to emerging cybersecurity trends.

  1. Determine the health of your current cybersecurity measures

Putting cybersecurity measures and tools in place is great, but they aren’t providing much of an impact if no one is checking up on them. Implementing regular cybersecurity maturity assessments will allow you to assess team members, tools, and processes.

Meeting with the members of your team who know the ins and outs of your client’s cybersecurity system will help keep your finger on the pulse of system performance. You’ll be able to proactively address issues before the system gets too far off-track, as well as evaluate current cybersecurity strengths and weaknesses.

The scoring system within your maturity assessment will enable you to quickly relay which client systems are healthy and which are underachieving. With this knowledge, you can easily pitch company stakeholders on investing in more advanced cybersecurity measures and tools or removing and replacing legacy IT assets.

  1. Get the entire organization on the same page

Every organization is made up of IT and non-IT members. Board members and upper-level managers may not understand cybersecurity lingo or even comprehend why cybersecurity is important in the first place. Crafting a detailed cybersecurity maturity model is a great way to give everyone the information they need in a format they can understand.

The scoring system within your maturity assessment will enable you to quickly relay which client systems are healthy and which are underachieving. With this knowledge, you can easily pitch company stakeholders on investing in more advanced cybersecurity measures and tools or removing and replacing legacy IT assets.

  1. Develop a guide for your security strategy

Once you’ve assessed your client’s cybersecurity maturity and have a good sense of their current cybersecurity positioning, you can use the information from your maturity assessment to move toward improving their cybersecurity framework. Knowing where they’re at now will enable you to launch strategic cybersecurity initiatives and plan out their implementation.

These benefits are all the more reason to start implementing a cybersecurity maturity model for your clients as soon as possible. These assessments are an integral part of the overall cybersecurity services you should be offering as an MSP.

If you’re wondering what your overall cybersecurity structure needs to look like, we’ve got you covered. Download a copy of our Cybersecurity Cheat Sheet today. If you have any questions about specific cybersecurity tools or how they function, you can contact us anytime or consult the resources in our cybersecurity glossary for more in-depth education.

How to implement a cybersecurity maturity model

Implementing a cybersecurity maturity model for your clients is a relatively straightforward process. There are four main steps to consider:

  1. Evaluation. Select evaluators from within your organization. Be sure to select team members from across departments to ensure you’re considering diverse perspectives. Have them assess the cybersecurity practices in their respective division against your chosen maturity model. The resulting score will show the current level of maturity for each department.
  2. Analysis. The evaluation from step 1 will illuminate any gaps in your current cybersecurity posture. Your client and their evaluators must come together as a team to assess which gaps need to be addressed and which are not mission-critical at the moment.
  3. Prioritization and planning. Categorize which gaps in your client’s cybersecurity are the most important to fix. Then, create a plan to improve and eliminate them.
  4. Implementation. Now is the time to implement the plans you made in the previous step. Put them into action and pause periodically to ensure their progress is on track and cybersecurity is improving on schedule.

Successfully implementing a cybersecurity maturity model for your clients requires ongoing management and attention to be successful. Implementation is fine, but if you and your client don’t commit to the process moving forward, all of your work may result in no significant impact or improvement to their cybersecurity program.

Choosing the right partner makes the process much easier, and ConnectWise is here to help. Our suite of MSP tools can help you delegate, automate, and elevate the tasks necessary to keep your cybersecurity center running 24/7.