January 2, 2024

Enterprise security is an umbrella term that covers all aspects of an organization’s cybersecurity posture and provides security training to users. The tactics, policies, people, processes, systems, and technology included in enterprise security protect organizations’ data, IT systems, and information assets. Enterprise security establishes defenses to predict, prevent, and respond to changing and increasingly sophisticated cyber threats, such as theft, data breaches, and cyber attacks.

Threat actors continuously seek ways to circumvent enterprise security systems and gain unauthorized access to applications, systems, and data. Enterprise security thwarts attempts by threat actors to obtain access to data and network infrastructure, such as systems, connected devices, and various endpoints.

Another element of enterprise security is its role in meeting various compliance requirements. Every organization holds some amount of sensitive information—from personally identifiable information (PII) to proprietary internal information.

Regardless of size, most organizations are subject to laws, regulations, and standards that dictate requirements for security and privacy controls. Failure to comply with applicable compliance requirements can result in significant penalties, including hefty fines. While commonly assumed to be all about protecting organizations from cybercrime, enterprise security’s role in compliance should not be overlooked. 

Why is enterprise security important?

The scale and scope of enterprise security make it fundamentally important for all organizations. Below are several of the commonly cited reasons why enterprise security should be a priority.

  • A comprehensive enterprise security strategy is critical to enable an effective risk management program.
  • Advanced persistent threats are on the rise and require the sophisticated solutions and processes that accompany enterprise security.
  • Almost every type of online communication the enterprise engages in is fraught with threats, such as compromised credentials and packet sniffers. 
  • Attack surfaces continue to expand with more entry points, remote access protocols, and additional user accounts.
  • Attacks are sophisticated, often driven by artificial intelligence (AI), and customized with details collected from months of research and planning.
  • Cloud services have complicated security strategies.
  • Enterprise security planning, deployment, maintenance, and improvement are vital to protecting the organization’s assets.
  • Enterprise security provides critical coverage for compliance requirements related to security and privacy.
  • Insider threats require enterprise security approaches that look holistically at users’ access and address issues with overprovisioning and the potential for unauthorized lateral movement.
  • Misconfigurations in cloud infrastructure that can lead to data breaches must be avoided.
  • Security training, a key part of enterprise security, provides an effective defense against social engineering threats.
  • A security breach can materially impact sensitive data, information assets, employee productivity, user experience, and brand reputation.
  • The already massive scope of the threat landscape continues to grow and evolve.

Enterprise security architecture

An enterprise security architecture covers all areas of cybersecurity and should include provisions for physical security. It is the blueprint for protecting an organization’s assets.

There are countless enterprise security architectures deployed that reflect the nuanced requirements of organizations.

An enterprise security architecture is usually considered in layers. These include:

  • Component security 
    • Products and tools   
    • Standards and frameworks 
    • Web services 
  • Conceptual security architecture elements 
    • Access control   
    • Application security  
    • Certificate management   
    • Communication security   
    • Domains 
    • Governance policies  
    • Incident response
    • Information systems 
    • Operational risk management   
  • Logical security 
    • Platforms   
    • Hardware   
    • Networks 
    • Operating systems 
    • Files 
    • Databases 
  • Operational security 
    • Implementation guides 
    • Administration  
    • Configuration/patch management 
    • Monitoring 
    • Logging 
    • Penetration testing 
    • Access management 
    • Change management 
    • Forensics 

Enterprise security best practices

Enterprise security is a sprawling area with seemingly endless components. Best practices to consider when developing an enterprise security strategy and implementation include:

  • Start with a strong enterprise security architecture following the guidelines of zero trust.
  • Create and enforce device security protocols for all devices (e.g., mobile and Internet of Things (IoT)).
  • Encrypt data at rest and in transit.
  • Establish disaster recovery plans.
  • Enable extensive monitoring and visibility.
  • Require access controls based on the principle of least privilege, role-based access controls, strong passwords, and multi-factor authentication.
  • Require regular security training for employees and connected third parties.
  • Set up identity security controls.
  • Strategically select comprehensive security solutions.

What is enterprise security risk management?

Enterprise security risk management, or ESRM, is a strategic approach to enterprise security that blends internal strategies with globally recognized risk mitigation principles. It provides a framework and processes to help organizations avoid and mitigate threats by identifying every resource that could be a target for attackers.

With enterprise security risk management, business leaders and security leaders partner to protect assets. Organizations can promote efficient operations by working closely together, as well as preventing the financial and reputational damage that comes with cybersecurity compromises. The success of an enterprise security risk management strategy hinges on a commitment on the parts of business and security leaders to work closely to achieve common goals.

Enterprise security risk management is important because it plays a critical role in overall enterprise security. The partnerships facilitated between security and business leaders ensure that risk management strategies are effectively implemented and refined to support the organization’s unique requirements. 

Key features of an enterprise security risk management strategy are:

  • Enterprise security governance must be in place to ensure that risk management decisions are data-driven and incorporate input from business and security teams.
  • The strategy must take a holistic approach that can identify and mitigate all types of risk and clearly show the effects on an organization.
  • Security leaders must be considered trusted partners who can provide business leaders with valuable insights to inform their decision-making processes.
  • Security leaders must provide enterprise security transparency to enable business leaders to understand the hows and whys of enterprise security systems, processes, and factors that have an organization-wide impact. 

The enterprise security risk management lifecycle will vary depending on the organization, but below are the high-level stages.

  • Identify and prioritize the organization’s assets.
  • Identify and prioritize risks and their relationship to the organization’s assets according to the value of each.
  • Take steps to mitigate high-priority risks with targeted protections that address specific threats.
  • Reduce risk on an ongoing basis by implementing systems to continuously improve the organization’s overall security posture. 

Factors to consider when developing an enterprise security risk management program include the following.

Establish risk appetite

An enterprise security risk management program must take the organization’s risk appetite into account. This is defined as the level of risk an organization is willing to accept, including the organization’s existing risk profile, risk capacity, risk tolerances, and attitudes toward risk.


Governance for an enterprise security risk management program should include direction on the measurement and reporting of risk as well as operations roles needed to ensure engagement, deliver training, and provide support.

Objectives and strategy

Before starting work on an enterprise security risk management program, it is critical for security and business leaders to align on objectives. Once the objectives have been established, a strategy can be developed that leads to achieving those objectives.

Processes and procedures must be in place to ensure that accurate enterprise security risk data can be collected, aggregated, and shared easily. Systems used for collecting and sharing risk data must capture all risk-related information and be able to scale as the volume of data increases. All risk-related information that is collected must be processed, analyzed, and made available to stakeholders in an accessible format.

Challenges in enterprise security

Enterprise security is not without its challenges. Issues that organizations must consider when implementing and maintaining enterprise security controls include the following.


One of the most difficult aspects of enterprise security is planning, as it requires determining which strategies and solutions provide the most effective coverage. These decisions must take into account not just the types of assets that need to be protected but also many other factors, such as the types of users, budgets, and IT resources.

Staying up-to-date

For organizations that have already deployed enterprise security solutions, staying up to date is a major effort.

Every element of the enterprise security posture must be regularly evaluated to ensure that it meets current requirements and is performing optimally.

These reviews identify areas that should be updated, systems that need to be replaced, and areas for improvement. 

Combatting the human factor

While enterprise security focuses primarily on digital defenses, human liabilities present a formidable threat. No matter how powerful cybersecurity defenses are, it only takes one person to fall for a social engineering attack for threat actors to circumvent security systems.

Because social engineering attacks exploit inherent weaknesses in human nature, they are very difficult to defend against. Training helps but requires a commitment to development, implementation, and testing to be effective. 

Addressing changing threats

The threats that enterprise security strives to deflect are varied and increasingly complex. Seemingly, as fast as solutions are identified and implemented, threats shift and change, requiring adjustments to enterprise security solutions and tactics. The many threats addressed include:

  • AI-powered cyberattacks
    Although AI has helped propel enterprise security to an all-new high, it is also being leveraged by cybercriminals. AI is used to train models used for malware, push inaccurate data into enterprise AI systems, and generate new types of attacks (e.g., deep fakes used for social engineering) optimized to evade enterprise security systems.
  • Budget cuts
    As much as any malware, budget cuts have a deleterious impact on enterprise security efficacy. Rumblings about recessions and other gloomy economic forecasts can drive leaders to cut costs, and this inevitably hits IT and security departments. These budget cuts result in a slower adoption of new enterprise security solutions and the teams that implement and manage them. 
  • Cross-site scripting (XSS)
    Cross-site scripting is an attack approach that executes malicious scripts on trusted websites, which are co-opted to submit malicious code and compromise user interactions. The attackers use XSS to steal users’ identities, gain “authorized” access to sensitive information, and steal their data.
  • Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack
    A DDoS attack floods servers with large volumes of internet traffic, which overwhelms systems, resulting in disrupted service and websites being taken offline. The motivations range from creating mayhem to using the attack to distract IT and security teams while other nefarious activities are undertaken. 
  • IoT security gaps
    Connected devices are a popular attack vector, because of their myriad vulnerabilities. Every IoT device represents a point of entry to an organization’s networks. The result is exponentially expanded attack surfaces that are difficult for enterprise security solutions to protect.
  • Phishing
    Phishing attacks are not new, but they continue to be effective, and they are becoming more effective with AI. With phishing, cyber attackers trick employees into inappropriate actions under false pretenses. Phishing may result in users revealing passwords, credit card numbers, and other sensitive data.
  • Ransomware
    Ransomware is a form of malware that encrypts files, rendering any infected files inaccessible to the users, systems, and applications that need them. The attackers then demand ransom in exchange for decrypting the files.
  • Skills gaps and staffing issues
    In addition to reductions in force that cut critical enterprise security staff, a shortage of qualified personnel makes it difficult to staff the positions that are open. The result is gaps in IT and security teams’ cybersecurity expertise, which leaves organizations vulnerable to cyber attacks.
  • SQL injection
    SQL (Structured Query Language) is a computing language widely used to search and query databases and exploited by cyber attackers. With a SQL injection attack, attackers exploit vulnerabilities in the application code by inserting (i.e., injecting) an SQL query in standard online form fields (e.g., login boxes or forms) that are passed to the application’s SQL database and used to gain unauthorized access.
  • Viruses and worms
    Viruses and worms are types of malicious software designed to spread through computers and networks. Both types of malware are used to exploit software vulnerabilities, allowing attackers to infiltrate systems, corrupt systems, steal data, and install backdoors to systems. 

Enterprise security – every organization’s cybersecurity standard

Enterprise security solutions form the foundation for nearly every organization’s cyber defenses. The larger the organization, the more extensive and complex the deployments.

Enterprise security protects all areas of an organization, from networks and servers (for hosted, on-premises, and hybrid environments) to endpoints (e.g., phones, laptops, and tablets) and data storage systems. The type of organization, the data it uses, and its size dictate what pieces of enterprise security are deployed and the level of complexity.

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