In today’s modern workplace, we see businesses adopting concepts like social networking, simplicity of connecting and omnichannel customer service. The common theme is online presence and connectivity because customers today expect to engage and transact online.
This new way of doing business can leave organisations open to cyber security risks.
There are 5 steps that businesses of any size should consider to make sure they are prepared. By following these steps, businesses can gain a clear understanding of their posture and develop strategies to continuously improve:
- Risk assessment
- Develop and maintain a cybersecurity strategy
- Implement proactive cybersecurity measures
- Implement reactive technical defences
- Employee training
As businesses enter a new digital era marked by rapid innovation and interconnectedness, cybersecurity ceases to be an add-on and has transformed into a critical necessity. The digitisation of business operations has amplified efficiency and accessibility, but it has also increased vulnerability to a wide range of cyber threats. With the evolution and escalation of these threats, the concept of cyber resilience has become more salient than ever.
Cyber resilience refers to the ability of an organisation to persistently deliver expected outcomes in the face of adverse cyber events. It’s not only about preventing cyber-attacks but also how your company responds and recovers when these incidents inevitably strike. Building a cyber-resilient company is a journey that involves thorough risk identification, development of a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy, implementation of proactive and reactive defences, and thorough training of your team. Each of these steps deserves careful attention and consideration.
1. Risk assessment
Every journey towards cyber resilience begins with risk assessment. It sets the foundation for your strategy by helping you understand your current status, exposing vulnerabilities and defining the potential implications of varying cyber threats. In a nutshell, a risk assessment consists of identifying your valuable assets that could be potential targets, such as hardware, software, data, networks and personnel.
Next, you need to pinpoint the threats that these assets might encounter and the vulnerabilities that could be exploited. Then, these risks must be evaluated and prioritised based on their severity. This step is iterative and should be repeated frequently to account for new assets, emerging threats and detected vulnerabilities.
2. Develop and maintain a cybersecurity strategy
Having grasped potential risks, your next move is crafting a holistic cybersecurity strategy that mitigates them. Your strategy should kick off with a gap analysis, which juxtaposes your current cybersecurity measures against the desired state. Here, you’re essentially comparing your existing practices with industry standards or frameworks such as NIST or ISO 27001 to identify any gaps.
Following the gap analysis is a thorough risk analysis, diving deeper into each risk identified during the risk assessment. This allows you to comprehend the nature of each risk better and informs the appropriate response measures. Additionally, as part of your strategy, you need to formulate a backup and recovery plan. Regular backups are instrumental in recovering data lost or compromised during a cyber incident. This plan should delineate what data should be backed up, how frequently it should be backed up and the process of data recovery during emergencies.
A robust cybersecurity strategy also includes an incident response plan, which outlines your organization’s response in the face of a cybersecurity incident. It should cover who does what, the escalation procedures, communication strategies and steps for analyzing and learning from the incident. Lastly, conducting regular cybersecurity audits is essential to gauge the effectiveness of your security measures, identify weaknesses in your defense and inform necessary improvements.
3. Implement proactive cybersecurity measures
A robust cybersecurity strategy must be proactive, constantly identifying and addressing threats before they materialize. This involves staying updated with the latest cybersecurity threats and trends, which allows you to anticipate potential risks and enhance your defenses accordingly. Regular updates and patching of your systems and applications can prevent security vulnerabilities from being exploited.
Implementing strong access controls is also crucial. Ensure employees only have access to the data they need to perform their roles to limit the potential damage in case of a compromised account. Additionally, employing Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) adds an extra layer of security by requiring additional credentials beyond just a password.
4. Implement reactive technical defences
Despite your best proactive measures, some cyber threats will infiltrate your defences. Reactive defences, such as firewalls and antivirus software, help to minimize damage when these incidents occur. Firewalls monitor and control incoming and outgoing network traffic based on predetermined security rules, forming the first line of defence against cyber threats. Antivirus software complements firewalls by detecting, preventing and removing malicious software.
Intrusion Detection and Prevention Systems (IDS/IPS) monitor your network for suspicious activities and potential threats, alerting you to a potential attack and, in some cases, taking action to mitigate the threat. Encryption is another valuable reactive measure that involves making your sensitive data unreadable to anyone without the appropriate decryption key, thus protecting it even if it falls into the wrong hands. Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) systems provide real-time analysis and reporting of security alerts generated by applications and network hardware. They help detect incidents early and respond promptly.
5. Employee training
Human factors are often the most vulnerable link in an organisation’s cybersecurity defences. Aware of this, cyber criminals tend to target employees with tactics like phishing. As such, thorough employee training is a vital part of building a cyber-resilient company. Employees should be made aware of their role in maintaining cybersecurity through regular awareness training, which covers common threats, safe online practices and the importance of security protocols.
Depending on their roles, some employees may require specific cybersecurity skills, such as understanding how to use security tools, identifying and responding to specific threats or handling sensitive data securely. Regularly conducting simulated attacks, such as phishing drills, can help employees understand what a real attack might look like and how they should respond.
Cyber threats are always evolving, and as such, your training should promote continuous learning and stay updated with the latest threats and defences. Building a cyber-resilient company is a journey rather than a destination. It requires continuous effort, learning and adaptation. However, the payoff is immense: Not only does it protect your organization from devastating cyber attacks, but it can also confer a competitive edge. In an increasingly connected world, customers, partners and investors highly value organisations that take cybersecurity seriously.