How can your organization become more Cyber Resilient? 

Image of skyscrapers in the city with people on the top of each building. Represents the infrastructure of a company and the need to keep it cyber resilient.
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Cyber Resilience is demonstrating to be a very important concept within organizations’ strategies. Keeping up with the increasing investment in security is demanding investment in new technologies that can defend organizations faster. Meterian is one of them. But what really is Cyber Resilience? What does it entail? And why is it so important?

What is Cyber Resilience?

Cyber Resilience is the ability to prepare for, respond to, and recover from cyber attacks. It involves a strategic view, addressing the life cycle of data when it is created, dispersed and stored. More importantly, a cyber resilient approach will incorporate the collaboration of people, processes and technology. Careful not to confuse this concept with cyber security, which is the action of preventing an attack from happening. On the other hand, Cyber resilience is more about being persistent in your defensive strategies, to produce a preventive and reactive defense against threats and vulnerabilities.

Cyber attacks are only on the rise! According to Forbes Insights survey more than 50% of surveyed organizations have experienced at least one cyber incident in the last three years and only 27% believe that their top management understands the difference between mitigating cyber risk and working towards a more organised cyber resilient strategy. Normally, hacked victims have a better idea of how to prevent attacks as they have learnt from previous incidents. But this is no excuse for organizations to wait until the worst! Here are some steps which can boost your cyber resilience!

Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, Recovery 

  1. Identify

The first stage in adopting a cyber resilient strategy begins with the preparation and identification of the potential security risks within the framework of your organization. This involves spotting vital information and conducting assessments on vulnerabilities. Prioritising your most urgent issues will make you less appealing to attackers! Urgent issues might include securing your customers’ data such as financial credentials, passwords or emails.  Also, check how well do you understand the risks of each of the devices and digital assets identified in my company. 

What is sometimes overlooked, is the diversity needed within a team when understanding your organizations’ potential vulnerabilities. Accenture made a study which demonstrates how the immediate cybersecurity team only identified 64% of the breaches.  So involving groups beyond the cybersecurity team is vital to create a united front between IT and business. This will increase an organization’s resilience at all levels. Industry research supports this, highlighting how due to the variety of software services and devices used by users or staff, users must take responsibility to identify and act on risks. We need to make sure strong defence is across all user levels. After all, ‘Many Eyes Make All Bugs Shallow’

With identification, comes attention to detail. It is not enough to list ‘hacking’ as a risk, for this action could range from phishing to exploited databases. Without this attention to detail, organizations are vulnerable to more acute attacks. Checklists are useful practical tools to help identify the people, processes and technology within the organization needed to form an effective defense.  If you can identify these entities, then it’s easier to talk about the risks and do something about them. Review the NCSC Cloud Security Guidance which provides a framework of 14 cloud security principles for enterprises to evaluate the security of any cloud service.  The UK ICO provides a useful self-assessment checklist for SMEs to evaluate their data protection assurance. Discuss these lists with your teams to get visibility on what could be vulnerable to attacks and what the team can do to build an effective defense. 

2. Protect

Protection will help minimise chances of breaches succeeding. It will contain the impact of the attack. Develop safeguards for critical infrastructure and make sure to enforce regular checks to understand the strength of the organization’s cyber resilience. This will help keep good cyber hygiene within your organization.

People, process and technology are essential for this step. In particular, new technology solutions are important to protect infrastructure and assets. Continuously investing in upgrading and refining protective systems should become a normal cost of business. However, experts feel that these technologies are not being bought or implemented to the fullest extent. Maybe this is because cybersecurity technologies need to make business sense; they cannot work in isolation. Yet, there are many tools in place to help with the five NIST framework categories, meaning you don’t have to waste time with a platform that has things you don’t need. You can simply choose cyber security products customized to your business needs. 

Protection of the mobile workforce is also a crucial factor within cyber resilience. By controlling mobile access to the network, employees are restricted to sensitive corporate information. This ties in with monitoring and enforcing policy adherence, seeming as malicious insiders are one of the most frequent sources of cyber security breaches! There should also be regular staff training to avoid any human factors leading to an attack.

3.  Detect 

A rapid response to a cyber attack is crucial! The longer it takes the more cyber criminals can exploit your organization. For example, according to the 2019 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, the time of discovery tends to be months. Of course, it does depend on the type of attack in question. There is a difference between payment card compromises where discovery is based on the fraudulent use of the stolen data (taking weeks or months), and a stolen laptop. So be aware, slower detection will only make your systems more vulnerable. 

To avoid this time lag, there needs to be detection and response policies in place. These must be evaluated and updated frequently. New technologies and software are essential as we have to adapt to attackers becoming more advanced. Surprisingly, only 40% of companies are investing in areas such as AI, machine learning and automation to become more cyber resilient. Yet, we understand adopting new technology takes time. An organization will have to make sure new technology is implemented, setup and allocated accordingly to their employees. Then they can use it through training and the adoption of new policy definitions.

It might seem daunting, but if you find tools that are easy to use and set up, this will increase your organization’s agility to detect and mitigate risks faster.

4. Respond 

Create a response plan. This will help contain the impact of the attack once it has been detected. There should be a specific focus on: 

  • Who will be the single point of contact that takes on responsibility for the plan and for integrating incident-response efforts? This may be required across teams, business units and geographies, depending on the organization size and structure as well as the nature and consequence of the attack.
  • What will the incident response team look like? Which individuals are critical to involve and are there reasonable backup plans if an individual is unavailable?
  • How will relationships with key external stakeholders, such as law enforcement be maintained?
  • How will the organization work with external breach-remediation providers and experts?

These are all questions which should be coordinated amongst a Response Team, where roles should be assigned to competent members of your organization.

5. Recover 

Returning your organization back to normal after an attack can be tough. However, thinking ahead to these what-if incidents can make it easier to recover and get back to business as usual.  This is a good planning exercise for both organizations who have and haven’t suffered a cyber attack.

If your organization has suffered an attack: Was there anything missing that could have prevented the attack? What did you learn from the breach? What will you do differently next time? Or what is the organization in need of to resist a future attack? 

Having pre-defined strategies in place can help the recovery process.  For example, developing and implementing systems and plans to restore any lost data or disrupted services affected by the attack would help organizations recover systems as quickly as possible. This can be done through the use of backups, cloud storage and off-site archives. It is worrying that while most organizations perform regular backups, very few know exactly what it is they are backing up. Again, there is a need for prioritisation. What information being backed up is of most importance? And if a cyber attack occurs what information and services need to be restored first in order to return to normalcy? More importantly, this recovery plan needs to be re-evaluated and updated regularly. This will help meet any risk related aspects of an attack that an organization might encounter in the future. 

Image of work colleagues giving themselves a high five. Represents team work.
Image from Pexels.com

Put into Practice

Following these steps will help boost your cyber resilience. The combination of people, systems and technology collaborating together is vital to emphasize, as it shows a united IT and business front against cyber attacks. Yet, cyber resilience requires adaptability, so make sure complacency does not get in the way. 

  • Develop easily accessible quick-response guides for likely scenarios.
  • Establish processes for making major decisions, such as when to isolate compromised areas of the network.
  • Document response plans, update them regularly and make them available to the entire organization. 
  • Make sure all staff members understand their roles and responsibilities in the event of a cyber incident.
  • Train, practice, and run simulated breaches to develop response “muscle memory”, increase individuals’ awareness and fine-tune the organization’s response capabilities.

Be flexible, be proactive and cultivate cyber resilience.

How can your organization become more Cyber Resilient? 

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