Businesses Must Move Beyond the Reactive Approach to Cybersecurity

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Cybersecurity has long been an industry with a reputation for waiting for something bad to happen and then frantically responding when it does. We’re part of the way into 2023, and cyber-attacks have been at the forefront of the news – which is no new phenomenon.

We’ve learnt repeatedly that cyber incidents, particularly those targeting critical infrastructure, create immense business disruption and should not be overlooked. In fact, the World Economic Forum’s 2023 Global Risks Report forecasts that attempts to disrupt critical technology-enabled resources and services will become more common this year. 

Yet, the usual approach to these incidents leaves chief information officers (CIOs) and their cybersecurity teams constantly under pressure, stressed and burnt out, waiting for an impending attack. In an industry struggling with a talent shortage, change is necessary to ensure teams are shifting their cyber strategies.

Beyond the Whack-a-Mole Approach

This year CIOs must take the lead on shifting their team’s security strategies and operations away from the current ‘whack-a-mole’ approach.

These approaches, such as patching individual vulnerabilities as they are discovered, do not address the root causes of security breaches and can leave organizations vulnerable to future attacks.

Instead, a more active outlook that includes regular risk assessment, incident response planning and employee education is necessary to effectively protect against cyber threats and minimize the impact of an attack. Shifting cybersecurity strategies and encouraging proactivity rests on everyone in the organization bearing responsibility – this is as key as the measures put in place to defend against cyber-attacks. But to achieve this mindset shift, teams require stakeholder buy-in from across the business.

Cybersecurity is a word that can induce fear and uncertainty in the boardroom. Too often, cyber teams are seen as the blocker of innovation and the bearers of bad news, but we’re slowly seeing the recognition of cybersecurity as an opportunity to innovate and win customer trust, and it’s on that basis that boardroom buy-in can be won.

Staying One Step Ahead

Keeping ahead of the curve requires organizations to integrate security considerations such as robust backup and recovery plans, solid access controls and step-by-step security protocols into every aspect of the development of new systems, processes and products. The way to implement this is through leveraging technology to gain a strategic advantage so that companies can position themselves ahead of cyber-criminals.

Emerging technologies such as AI, machine learning and quantum computing are paving the way for new models of security solutions. Organizations can configure enhanced structures to empower their security systems through AI-powered solutions and by thinking about and planning for post-quantum encryption. Such integrations allow for a stronger security posture and better protection against imminent threats.

Obtaining information from threat intelligence tools and using that to shape strategic planning – including what should be prioritized – will enable security teams to not just track and measure threats but proactively manage them too.

However, tech can present opportunities for threat actors alongside the potential they hold for businesses. This adds another layer of complexity and pressure on security teams. With a heightened number of vulnerabilities that attackers can exploit, organizations must take the necessary steps to educate themselves and their people on the risks and benefits of all technologies and then factor the necessary precautions into their cyber strategies.

Build in Security at the Development Stage

As organizations have digitized, they haven’t always built security in from the onset. Yet, this is the most efficient and cost-effective approach to defense.

Business leaders must empower CIOs and their security teams with the right level of resources and by supporting adoption to create a security framework defined by proactivity. End users must be considered, be it employees or customers, from educating staff on how systems are monitored for threats and how they can help ensure consumers have the right information regarding their data privacy.

Evolving threat monitoring in-house or outsourcing to quality-managed service providers is also making a difference. Historically, organizations have been on the back foot by taking a reactive approach to cybersecurity. But the most forward-leaning leaders will understand that security needs to be baked into every transformation project from the onset to achieve innovation at speed, sustainably and reliably.

By shifting to a proactive and more strategic approach and becoming a catalyst for trusted change, security professionals can build a risk-aware culture in their organization. They must continue educating themselves to reduce the impact of human behavior and operate a program that is resilient in the face of ever-evolving cyber threats and digital business strategies.

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