A cybersecurity assessment tool (CSAT) is a program that experienced security experts developed to help users quickly assess their current cybersecurity status and recommend improvements based on its findings. CSATs collect relevant security data from an organization’s entire IT environment. To do that, it scans endpoints, active directories, and installed applications. CSATs also employ a questionnaire to collect information about policies and other vital indicators.
CSATs compare the data obtained from all network-connected systems with policies and indicators of compromise (IoCs) to see if anything poses risks to the organization. Think of them as sensors scattered throughout a premise that requires utmost protection from outsiders and insiders alike. Each time an unauthorized entry is detected, CSATs sound an alarm to alert security personnel.
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Different organizations may use standard CSATs created by institutions like the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) for banks or specially crafted tools designed specifically for their needs.
What Does a Cybersecurity Assessment Tool Do?
A CSAT does three essential things for users.
1. Helps Users Define Policies
CSATs allow organizations to obtain insights into their security status. They do so via automated scans and analyses. The data from these processes serves as the users’ basis to identify priorities and provides the inputs they need to create a roadmap towards improved cybersecurity.
2. Lets Users Identify Technological Gaps
Technological gaps refer to vulnerabilities found in an organization’s network. When these are identified, CSATs tell users what technological and procedural measures to apply to improve their infrastructure’s security. They search through all stored content for personally identifiable information (PII). The credentials of everyone who were granted access to shared sites and documents are also extracted for comparison with the accounts saved in active directories to identify unauthorized entries.
3. Gives Users Recommendations
Finally, CSATs identify areas that require user attention and recommend actions. If they find out that sensitive information is being shared with people outside the organization, they will recommend document security measures. Regular assessments can help users improve their network security constantly.
How Does a Cybersecurity Assessment Tool Work?
CSATs perform scans across three primary network areas.
CSATs gather information about local accounts, firewall rules, installed applications, operating systems (OSs), shared access points, and registry files. Basically, any system and device connected to the network gets scanned thoroughly for any sign of tampering or unauthorized use.
User Access Credentials
CSATs collect all user and group credentials to identify external users and unused accounts and flag suspicious accounts. All unregistered devices are identified to develop reports on policies and recommend actions.
CSATs search through all shared content, including access granted. Scrutinizing the list of users of shared files and documents can help the organization identify potential unauthorized access. They then give additional recommendations for better security.
CSATs differ somewhat in how they work, but they aim to do the same thing—to identify the risks to an organization’s security.
What Are the Benefits of Using a Cybersecurity Assessment Tool?
Cybersecurity assessment has three primary benefits discussed in greater detail below.
1. Identify Vulnerabilities
CSATs can help organizations spot gaps in their security and address them. They let users see which cybersecurity measures have weaknesses that threat actors can target. Once the vulnerabilities are addressed and stronger stopgaps are put in place, the network becomes more able to deal with attacks.
2. Push Users to Review Controls
CSATs let users test how effective their cybersecurity policies are. The insights they gain can clue them in to how they further beef up their policies and procedures to continuously thwart attacks.
3. Meet Compliance Requirements
Many governments and regulatory bodies require the organizations and institutions they oversee to comply with strict requirements. Any company that does business with organizations based in European Union (EU) member countries and EU citizens, for instance, need to abide by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Any company that offers credit cards, meanwhile, needs to follow the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). Those that fail to do so have to pay massive fees or even suffer incarceration.
CSATs created for industries have built-in features that let users automatically comply with sector-specific standards, reducing their chances of not complying with established laws and regulations.
CSATs are meant to strengthen the security of any network to prevent them from succumbing to any cyber attack.