According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, resiliency is the “ability to recover from or adjust easily to adversity or change.” In business and charity work, organizations face many adversities — and cyberthreats are among the most pernicious. Certainly, firms can set up all sorts of cybersecurity measures in place to prevent cyberattacks. However, because malicious hackers are innovative, produce countless malware, and are sometimes lucky in finding zero-day vulnerabilities first, some of them do breach firms’ cyber defenses. When this happens, those hackers wreak havoc upon firms, and how a firm responds to and recovers from a cyberattack shows how much cyber resilience that firm has.
An organization displays cyber resilience by minimizing the damage caused by the cyberattack or data breach, neutralizing the attacker, and utilizing backup systems and fail-safes to minimize business disruption.
Beyond cybercrime, other adversities firms’ IT systems face are power outages, natural disasters like wildfires and earthquakes, and changes to the overall IT landscape, such as the sunsetting of Internet Explorer. Being cyber resilient means having the ability to keep delivering goods and services while tackling IT operational challenges and shifting to new processes temporarily or permanently.
In short, being cyber resilient is being able to remain operational despite IT setbacks
While managed IT services providers always claim that prevention is better than cure — and this remains to be true — the fact of the matter is that not every adverse IT event can be prevented. Therefore, beyond cybersecurity, firms must also have the ability to respond and adjust to such events.
Recent incidents have clearly demonstrated the importance of cyber resilience. The cyberattacks on the Oldsmar water treatment facility and Colonial Pipeline revealed the weakness of the cyber defenses of American infrastructures. More importantly, these attacks showed the dire consequences of operational failure for those who rely on these facilities. Obviously, these companies must fortify their cyber defenses, but they must also improve their cyber resilience, too.
The 4 dimensions of cyber resilience
Cyber resilience consists of measures designed to prevent and counteract adverse IT events. These measures are categorized as follows:
1. Threat protection
The methods included here minimize vulnerabilities to cyberthreats like malware and phishing attacks. Common tactics include:
- Assessing the breadth and vulnerability of a firm’s attack surface (i.e., the places hackers might try to infiltrate your network from)
- Determining the risks posed by third parties
- Implementing cybersecurity solutions like firewalls and antivirus software
- Training staff on cybersecurity protocols
- Penetration testing
Cyber resilience strategies assume that adverse IT events are inevitable. Recoverability measures anticipate the damage these events may cause and either minimize it or reverse it altogether. Examples include:
- Data backup systems
- Power backups like generators and uninterrupted power supplies
- Business continuity and disaster recovery strategies
During an adverse IT event, some components of your IT systems may be out of commission, so being able to fall back on alternative resources and processes demonstrates adaptability.
Additionally, threat protection and recoverability measures consider known threats, but never-before-seen ones may emerge and catch firms unaware. When standing up against such threats, time is your ally. Vigilance in the form of continuous security monitoring plays a key role in spotting such threats early so that firms would have enough time to assess these and immediately develop countermeasures.
Durability refers to a firm’s ability to resume regular operations after suffering an adverse IT event. While going back to “business as usual” is desirable in the short term, durability measures are more focused on improving IT systems so that the firm doesn’t fall victim to the same threat again. Such measures include blameless security post-mortems and other continuous improvement processes.
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