Bandler's Four Pillars of Cybersecurity

by John Bandler

My Four Pillars of Cybersecurity is a cybersecurity framework everyone can understand. It is a great starting point for individuals, small and mid-sized organizations as guidance for cybersecurity plan and practice. It consists of continual improvement of:

Bandler's Four Pillars of Cybersecurity

  1. Improve Knowledge and awareness to improve decision making from the CEO to newest hire. Learn about cybercrime threats, information security, technology, and legal requirements
  2. Secure computing devices
  3. Secure data
  4. Secure networks and use of the Internet

[Repeat].

The beauty of this conceptual framework is its simplicity and efficiency. It is understandable and accessible to every person, from the newest hire to the head of the organization, from the luddite to the IT professional. That is essential because cybersecurity is for everyone, from the end users to the leaders who make important decisions about information assets. Bandler's Four Pillars of Cybersecurity focuses on these important areas, with continual and cyclical growth and improvement. Let's review each pillar.

1. Knowledge and awareness

Every employee needs a degree of knowledge and awareness to make good decisions. The employee's lack of knowledge might result in a devastating cybercrime. The organization leader's lack of knowledge might result in disastrous decisions regarding information technology and security.

Imagine trying to secure your home without knowledge of how a door operates, or how to engage the lock. Imagine trying to drive a car safely without understanding basic principles of how a car works, rules of the road, or the basic rules of physics that we learn with common sense. We know we cannot navigate that curve at 100mph, nor can we survive a crash at that speed.

Knowledge and awareness should extend to:

  • Legal requirements
  • Organization internal rules (including written policies, procedures, and more)
  • Cybercrime threats, including
    • Social engineering (con artistry) and similar threats aimed at people
    • Email based funds transfer frauds (“business email compromise” and “CEO Fraud”)
    • Phishing
    • Malware, including ransomware
    • Data breaches and data theft
    • Identity theft
  • Privacy threats
  • Basic information security principles
  • How computers work
  • How networks and the internet work
  • How to implement basic security measures and make good security decisions
  • The importance of cybersecurity in the home, and how security at work and home are interrelated
  • How working remotely creates security risks.

2. Protection of computing devices

Computing devices need to be secured. This includes smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops, servers, networking devices, and more. This means:

  • Inventory all devices, and develop a process for bringing them into service securely (commissioning) and taking them out of service securely when no longer needed (decommissioning).
  • Ensure physical security and control over these devices. Devices need to be protected from loss, damage, or theft.
  • Proper device configuration.
  • Updating (patching) of devices.
  • Malware protection.
  • Intrusion protection.
  • Controlled access.
  • Periodic review of security and privacy settings.

3. Protection of data

Data needs to be protected from data breach, and needs to be available when needed. Certain data breaches could trigger reporting requirements. This means:

  • Inventory data (to a reasonable degree of detail).
  • Secure cloud accounts properly with complex, unique passwords, and a second factor of authentication (multi-factor authentication, MFA, or 2FA)
  • Control access to data.
  • Secure data in a manner commensurate with its sensitivity.
  • Encrypt certain data where warranted.
  • Delete unneeded data.
  • Back up data regularly.

4. Protection of networks and safe use of the internet

Data is constantly flowing between our internal devices and through the internet. Key concepts include:

  • Inventory network hardware and physically secure it.
  • Routers and switches are security configured.
    • Unique (and non-default) passwords.
    • Kept updated (patched).
    • Unneeded features will be disabled.
  • Wi-Fi networks will be encrypted and require a strong password to join. The password will be changed periodically.
  • Consider intrusion prevention and monitoring.
  • Be conscious of the route that data takes.
  • Avoid or minimize the use of public networks.
  • Encrypt data in transit whenever practical.
  • Encrypt certain data at the file level for transmittal.

Repeat (continually improve)

Cybersecurity is never "done", but we take small continual steps, and look to continually improve our security and the strength of each of the four pillars.

Bandler's Four Pillars is a simple entry point while other frameworks can be complex

There are many cybersecurity frameworks out there, which I will discuss in more detail in this article. These other frameworks are written by excellent teams of smart people in excellent organizations. The NIST frameworks are excellent and freely available at no cost, with no license agreement. Other frameworks may be part of a business model, proprietary, cost money, and be subject to licensing agreements. All are geared for readers with a high degree of technology and information security knowledge, and for organizations with mature information security programs. This means they are too technical for most individuals to understand, and for most smaller and mid sized organizations to implement.

In contrast, Bandler's Four Pillars of Cybersecurity framework is perfect for individuals, small organizations, and many medium sized organizations. It is also a helpful tool for individuals in larger organizations to better comprehend the cybersecurity framework their organization has adopted.

Bandler's Four Pillars is defensible and extensible

My Four Pillars of Cybersecurity is a defensible framework. It is simple and comprehensible for every organization employee. Other frameworks have far more detail and are way more complex. But frameworks that are not read, or are not understood, do not impart their full value.

  • The 18 security controls (formerly 20) from the Center for Internet Security (CIS) are respected, detailed, and complex. My Four Pillars includes four essential categories they cover in greater detail.
  • Every cybersecurity framework has details pertaining to securing these four areas.
  • No cybersecurity expert would disagree about the importance of knowledge, good decision making, and securing of devices, data, networks, and internet usage.
  • Most small businesses without cybersecurity expertise in-house would be unable to properly understand or implement a traditional cybersecurity frameworks.
    • The NIST Cybersecurity Framework (NIST CSF) is one of the shortest and simplest frameworks out there (other than mine). Still, it is 55 pages, has significant technical language, five framework functions and 23 categories.

The Four Pillars framework is extensible. It can be extended to add greater detail, and organizations can adopt more complex frameworks as they increase in size and maturity. It is simple for the organization to begin a transition by supplementing with more complex and detailed guidance, such as the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, or the CIS Eighteen Twenty Critical Security Controls. Even as maturation takes place the Four Pillars remains helpful because cybersecurity is a responsibility of every employee, and every employee cannot be a cybersecurity expert.

Conclusion

Bandler's Four Pillars of Cybersecurity will serve individuals, small businesses, and most medium sized businesses well. The framework is also conceptually helpful for individuals in larger organizations to help understand basic cybersecurity principles.

This is not legal advice nor consulting advice, and is not tailored to your circumstances.

If your organization needs help to protect from cybercrime, improve cybersecurity, create or improve policies, or comply with cybersecurity related laws and regulations, please contact me.

Additional reading

This article is hosted at https://johnbandler.com/bandlers-four-pillars-of-cybersecurity. Copyright John Bandler, all rights reserved.

A version of this article is available on Medium.com, at https://johnbandler.medium.com/bandlers-four-pillars-of-cybersecurity-6d0761f04f82 (though perhaps not as current).

Originally Posted 7/2/2021. Updated 06/10/2022.