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Critical Security Controls for Truely Small Businesses – Identify

Critical Security Controls for Truely Small Businesses – Identify

I listen to a number of podcasts weekly.  One of my favorite is Down the Security Rabbit Hole (#dtsr).  Frequently I hear the hosts talk about focused measures and that basically one size does not fit all.  If you look at the Critical Security Controls initially published by SANS & Council on Cyber Security and now promulgated by the Center for Internet Security.
The controls fall into broad categories defined the U.S. Governments National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cyber Security Framework.  The framework breaks down controls into five areas.  This blog post will cover the first Identify.
The controls while applicable to larger small businesses (20+ endpoints) Let’s take a look at ways that smaller businesses with less can make this happen without going broke.  So breaking this down into items easily accomplished by completed by the business IT person or a consultant. For a small business they can look at “quick wins”.


The Critical Security Controls show seven Quick Wins.  Some are not so easy to implement and may require purchasing additional software and hardware to manage.  But what it comes down to is really knowing what you own.


For example a local accounting firm may only have five or six computers, a server, a couple of printers, and basic networking devices.  For simplicity sake, let’s say 10 endpoints.
Why did I choose an accounting firm?  Typically these firms process a considerable amount of personally identifiable information (pii) and additionally there is quite a bit of financial information about their personal and business clients.  This can make them a juicy target for cyber criminals.
So of the seven Quick Wins, really only two are initially necessary.  I say initially, only because the others can be addressed later as the business is able to.  The same goes for the other items under the Identify framework category.
1.2 – Deploy automated asset inventory.  Well maybe not automated, a hand developed list with manufacturer, model number, serial number, location, and assigned IP addresses.  Maintain and update the list as things change within the business.  Identify those pieces of hardware that process or store information critical to the business.  In the case of an accountant, it might be a server and workstations that store the information.  If you utilize a managed service provider, have them provide this list to you.  To go with this, draw out a map showing how the network is connected. 


2.3 – Deploy software inventory tools.  Again like the hardware, a hand developed list of software is all that is really necessary that contains the developer, version number, and last time updated.  A typical list can be derived by looking at the add/remove programs console.  Given that it is possible that not everything installed will appear in the list, it will contain your major applications and add-ons (Adobe Acrobat, Flash, etc.)
By completing these two items, a small business can meet the intent of the Identify category.  If you require assistance, please contact us.  We will be glad to assist your small business.

About the Author

Chris Wolski author

Chris Wolski is the founder and principle consultant of the small business and municipality focused cyber security firm 360 Degree Cyber Security, LLC. He is currently certified by International Information System Security Certification Consortium as a Certified Information Systems Security Professional and by the SANS Institute as a Global Industrial Cyber Security Professional. Active in the information security community, Chris volunteers his time at BSides Delaware and to various individuals seeking to be mentored in cybersecurity. He is frequently researching industrial devices to discover weaknesses that would present a problem for users of those devices. Chris obtained his start in cyber security in the U.S. Navy where he served in various information security and signals intelligence roles over his 20 year career. He left government service after serving in a position to develop cyber threat intelligence against industrial controls and later on the Joint Chiefs of Staff as a cyber incident handler. Chris has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Cybersecurity from University of Maryland University College and is currently pursuing a Master in Business Administration, also at the University of Maryland University College.

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