No organization today is too small to attract the attention of cybercriminals. Most decision-makers know this, which is why 53 percent of organizations plan to increase IT spending in 2023. However, allocating more money to cybersecurity leads to an improved cybersecurity posture only when the money is spent wisely.
Cybersecurity metrics are quantitative measures that track specific aspects of an organization’s cybersecurity performance. They provide a broader business perspective on the effectiveness of the organization’s cybersecurity strategy, revealing areas that require attention and thus helping guide IT spending in the right direction.
6 Critical Cybersecurity Policies Every Organization Must Have
There are many different cybersecurity metrics you can track, but not all of them are equally important.
We’ve compiled the top 10 cybersecurity metrics with examples that every organization should pay attention to:
1. Security Incidents
A security incident is any event that threatens the confidentiality, integrity, or availability of your data or systems, so this important metric includes both successful and unsuccessful attacks. Knowing how many security incidents occurred during a specific time period can help you assess your overall cybersecurity posture and its impact on your organization’s operations.
Tracking security incidents can help you identify patterns or trends in cyber attacks and respond to them appropriately. For example, many organizations notice a spike in phishing attacks and other social engineering scams around the holiday season. Such organizations should prepare for each holiday season by increasing employee training or implementing stricter email filtering settings.
2. Detected Intrusion Attempts
This cybersecurity metric measures the number of attempted intrusions, which happen when an unauthorized party tries to gain access to an organization’s network. Knowing how often cybercriminals are trying to break in can make it much easier to communicate the importance of strong cybersecurity to stakeholders.
Just keep in mind that this metric will always be greatly influenced by your intrusion detection capabilities. An organization with poor intrusion detection capabilities might not be aware of many intrusion attempts, while an organization with robust intrusion detection systems might detect an above-average number of attempts.
3. False Positives
False positives are security alerts that are triggered incorrectly. This often happens when a security system wrongly identifies legitimate user activity as a security threat or when certain legitimate web traffic is flagged as malicious.
It’s useful to know how many security alerts are falsely positive because such alerts can waste valuable IT resources, lead to alert fatigue, and distract IT employees from alerts that are critically important and must be addressed as soon as possible.
4. Mean Time to Detect (MTTD)
MTTD measures the average amount of time it takes an organization to detect a security incident once it has occurred. A lower MTTD indicates that an organization is better at detecting security incidents, which can help minimize the damage caused by a security breach.
The only problem with this metric is that 53 percent of successful cyber attacks infiltrate organizations without being detected, as revealed in the Mandiant Security Effectiveness Report. However, tracking MTTD is still important because it helps you determine if your ability to respond to the same incidents is getting better or worse or staying the same.
5. Mean Time to Respond (MTTR)
MTTR in cybersecurity measures the average amount of time it takes an organization to start taking appropriate actions once a security incident has been detected.
Just like emergency services need to respond to a call as quickly as possible to protect people’s lives, cybersecurity teams need to start performing potentially business-saving actions as soon as possible to minimize the damage, which is why this MTTR is one of the most important metrics you can track.
6. Mean Time to Contain (MTTC)
MTTC measures the average amount of time it takes an organization to limit the impact of a security incident and prevent further damage. This is typically achieved by isolating affected systems and deploying countermeasures to block malicious activity.
One particularly dangerous threat that can cause a lot of damage unless contained promptly is ransomware. If you can quickly contain ransomware attacks, then you can usually avoid having your data encrypted and, as a result, made inaccessible. What’s alarming, however, is that the average time to contain a cyber attack is 277 days, according to IBM’s Cost of Data Breach Report.
7. Number of Known Vulnerabilities
This patch management-related cybersecurity metric measures the total number of known vulnerabilities across an organization’s entire IT network, with vulnerabilities being unpatched weaknesses in software and hardware that attackers could exploit.
By tracking this metric, you can easily evaluate how vulnerable your systems are. A high number of known vulnerabilities usually goes hand in hand with the presence of outdated legacy hardware and software that no longer receives any support.
8. Percentage of Applied Patches
When a vulnerability gets discovered, it can’t always be immediately patched because it takes vendors some time to develop and release patches. But once a patch becomes available, it should be applied as quickly as possible to prevent attackers from exploiting the vulnerability.
The percentage of applied patches is an important cybersecurity metric because it measures how many patches have been successfully applied out of the total number of available patches. A high percentage means that you’re patching effectively, while a low percentage means that your patch management strategy should be improved.
9. Mean Time to Patch (MTTP)
If you want to apply patches to known vulnerabilities quickly and prevent attackers from exploiting your systems, then you need to measure your Mean Time to Patch (MTTP), the average amount of time it takes to apply patches to known vulnerabilities. The lower your MTTP is, the more efficient your are at closing the window of opportunity for attackers to exploit your systems.
Unfortunately, organizations that don’t prioritize patching are notoriously slow to respond, taking an average of 60 days to patch critical risk vulnerabilities and even longer to patch less serious ones. No wonder then that 60 percent of breaches in 2019 involved unpatched vulnerabilities.
10. Phishing Simulation Click-Through Rate
Phishing is the most widespread social engineering attack today, and it involves tricking individuals into clicking on a malicious link, providing sensitive information, or performing some other action whose consequences can be disastrous for your entire organization.
Phishing simulations are used to train employees to recognize and avoid phishing attacks, and measuring the proportion of employees who click on a phishing link in a simulated attack provides invaluable information about the effectiveness of your cybersecurity awareness training initiatives.
Putting Cybersecurity Metrics to Good Use
But tracking cybersecurity metrics isn’t enough—just like it’s not enough to monitor a patient’s vital signs without providing treatment for detected health issues. To truly improve your cybersecurity posture, you must act on the insights that cybersecurity metrics provide.
In practice, acting on cybersecurity metrics could mean allocating resources to enhance intrusion detection capabilities, investing in employee training, migrating legacy systems to the cloud, and so on.
As a provider of managed IT services, we at OSIbeyond can help you collect the cybersecurity metrics listed in this article and put them to good use so that your organization becomes more secure. Our IT support & strategy services are tailored to meet the needs of small and medium-sized organizations in Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.
Contact us today for more information.