Mar 06 2024

What Is a Rapid Maturity Assessment, and Why Is It Useful for Zero Trust?

No matter where schools are in their zero-trust journey, a rapid maturity assessment can help them take security to the next level.

Bolstering a school’s cybersecurity can cost a pretty penny, but that could be pennies on the dollar compared with the cost of a breach. According to IBM, the global average cost of a data breach in 2023 was nearly $4.5 million, a 15 percent increase over three years.

To combat these threats, the Consortium for School Networking is seeing an increase in schools adopting practices to improve cybersecurity, according to CoSN’s “2023 State of EdTech Leadership” report. “This year, 61% of respondents require two-factor authentication for district accounts, compared to 40% last year,” the report states.

That’s where security maturity assessments come into play. Of the 89 percent of districts considering new technologies to improve cybersecurity, 26 percent reported looking into zero-trust models specifically, according to the “Cybersecure 2024” report from Clever. For these districts, a rapid maturity assessment in particular can be a great place to start.

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What Is a Rapid Maturity Assessment?

There’s a difference between a cybersecurity audit and a cybersecurity assessment. While an audit will provide a compliance snapshot, especially as security regulations continue to evolve, an assessment focuses on the maturity of a cybersecurity model.

In other words, an audit can help schools gauge whether everything is up to par legally, and a maturity assessment will provide a 360-degree view of a school's cyber vulnerabilities.

In addition to helping teams understand their environment’s present cybersecurity roadmap, a maturity assessment also provides guidance on remediating incidents based on the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s (CISA’s) industry-standard cybersecurity frameworks.

$4.5 million

The global average cost of a data breach in 2023

Source: IBM, Cost of a Data Breach Report 2023, July 2023

Achieving zero-trust goals takes time, but a rapid maturity assessment is fast and comprehensive. In fact, 93 percent of organizations adopting zero trust found the benefits matched or exceeded their expectations, according to CDW. Since maturity assessments identify security gaps and make actionable recommendations on how to close them, a rapid assessment empowers school districts to bolster their cybersecurity in key areas to avoid more data losses and lower cyber risks overall.

RELATED: Get started with a rapid maturity assessment.

What Does a Rapid Maturity Assessment Entail?

Zero trust is an incremental process, and as schools begin their journeys, expert assessments can be an extremely useful tool to evaluate security issues and work toward solutions. CDW’s rapid zero-trust maturity assessment measures an organization’s IT environment against CISA’s Zero Trust Maturity Model.

This model includes five core pillars:

  • IDENTITY, including multifactor authentication, identity lifecycle management, visibility into user behavior analytics, identity and credential administration, and risk assessment
  • DEVICE, including configuration management, real-time threat analysis, asset tracking and patching
  • NETWORK/ENVIRONMENT, including macrosegmentation and microsegmentation, protocol encryption, machine learning–based threat protection, and Infrastructure as Code automation
  • APPLICATION WORKLOAD, such as continuous access authorization, application security testing, and dynamic application health and security monitoring
  • DATA, including classification, least-privilege access controls, end-to-end encryption, access logging, and immutable data backup and restore

The assessment also offers a four-week workshop with CDW experts to help teams design their zero-trust strategy and prioritize cybersecurity projects. The workshop includes direction on how to start tackling issues using the IT resources on hand so that schools can make immediate progress toward their zero-trust goals.

DISCOVER MORE: Protect your schools from cybercrime with a zero-trust approach.

How Does a Rapid Maturity Assessment Facilitate Zero Trust?

As noted in Verizon’s 2023 Data Breach Investigations Report, 3 in 4 breaches involve human error. This is part of why zero trust — which requires users and devices to prove their identities before accessing a network — is so essential.

These assessments can also catch vulnerabilities that IT leaders may miss. According to CoSN’s report, “EdTech Leaders tend to underestimate the threats to their network: 50 percent or more rated five threat types as relatively low.” This is further corroborated by research from PwC, which states that “more than 40 percent of leaders said they do not understand the cyber risks posed by emerging technologies, like virtual environment tools, generative AI, enterprise blockchain, quantum computing and virtual reality/augmented reality.”

This, and the fact that many schools are early in their zero-trust journey, makes rapid maturity assessments incredibly useful. A maturity assessment framework can demystify the complexity of zero trust and enable organizations to evaluate their zero-trust maturity, from identity to endpoint, network and infrastructure.

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