Since the covid-19, the cyber incident ratio has drastically increased and shows no signs of settling down. In just one year, cyber-attacks have targeted big enterprises, government agencies of the world’s leading countries, educational institutes, non-government organisations (NGOs), and small to mid-sized businesses. It is estimated that threat actors carry out cyber attacks every 39 seconds, which is relatively faster than before. In contrast, the average cost of a data breach has been driven to $3.86 million globally. In the first quarter to 2021, numerous businesses, including large software companies to government nuclear agencies, have been affected by the cyberattack in which ransomware is quite significant.
I read this excellent analogy on the NCSC website, that must be mentioned:
Just like we all suffer from new viruses causing cold, cough or fever, our body fights against such illnesses without encountering these exact viruses before. Yet we are able to recover from these situations. This is an example of a resilient system.
All such events indicate that no one is immune to cyberattacks, and one mistake could be too costly for your business. Unfortunately, you do not live in an ideal world, nor do you have a superpower to prevent you from being a threat to actors’ favourite target. Therefore, you must prepare yourselves and your businesses to be cyber resilient in any situation.
This blog post aims to share key knowledge around cyber resilience, i.e., what is cyber resilience, what framework it has, and how you can achieve cyber resilience to survive any misfortune.
What is cyber resilience?
Cyber resilience refers to the organisation competencies to recover from difficulties and accidents related to the cyber atmosphere.
In simple terms,
cyber resilience is the cyber fitness and ability of organisations’ to protect, respond, and defend against data breaches or cyber-attacks and limit the impact of the incident.
It helps organisations stand firm on the ground during cyber incidents however high or low severity they are and assists the business in surviving with minimum downtime.
Think of it as a defence mechanism, cyber security is a lock on your door, and cyber resilience is a shield behind your door. So in case, your main door gets hit by a bullet or anything, you will still be protected and have a minimum effect on your house because of the shield, and by the time you fix the main door, your shield will be there to provide you constant protection.
Cyber security is a key to remain protected, but alone it can not secure you in the long run; this is why you have to be flexible and adapt cyber resilience to keep going even if your cyber security strategy fails and your business gets disrupted by anything, including human error, natural disaster, power outage, cyber incidents.
Why is cyber resilience important?
Today, almost every business is utilising the digital platform, which provides them vast opportunities and flexibility of work and opens a new arena of cyber threats. A minor vulnerability either in IT infrastructure or human mindset can put the whole enterprise at risk.
At the same time, if exploited, it can cause considerable consequences in terms of denial of services, data loss, etc. In such a situation, your brand not only becomes a headline but also suffers financial, reputational loss and legal consequences from the regulatory bodies.
To avoid such scenarios, it is important to make the organisation resilient with appropriate cyber resilience strategies. Cyber security controls is a must-have for any business, but security measures without a strong cyber resilience strategy would not help prevent the incident.
With the cyber resilience strategy, you can enhance your organisation risk management and business continuity activities. In addition, it significantly facilitates broadening the overall business policy by assuming the worst cyber incident and being able to handle and respond to the attack.
Cyber resilience offers a lot of benefits before, after and during a cyber event. Some of the significant benefits of the resilience strategy are:
1. Enhanced and continuous security – Organisations with resilient cyber strategies in place are more likely to have improved and updated IT governance and data breach trend awareness, which eventually helps them continuously enhance their defence mechanism.
2. Saving compliance and financial losses – It is mandatory by the regulatory bodies to have appropriate incident recovery plans and relevant security measures in place that minimise the impact and probability of sensitive data loss. The continuous resilience cyber process helps to comply with the regulatory bodies, which in return reduces the cost of financial loss and penalties in case of a successful cyber event or data privacy breach.
3. Improved defensive capabilities – Cyber resilience is all about being defensive whenever threat actors target or any cyber incident befalls the company. It contributes to building proactive and real-world effective solutions to restrict unauthorised access and intrusion.
4. Strong reputation- Cyber incidents disrupt business operations and lead to loss of customer trust, brand reputation. However, the resilience cyber plan benefits in maintaining business operation, brand reputation and customer trust even if the company get attacked by the threat actors.
Cyber resilience framework
The cyber resilience framework is an important element that helps organisations organise, accept, and reduce cyber security risks. The resilience cyber framework provides a flexible approach to managing the risk that might occur, no matter how well your organisation defences are. It encourages you to accept the risk without stressing over the data breach and reducing the attack outgrowths with the minimum impact on the business operation.
In short, the cyber resilience framework manages and accepts the risk and prepares the organisation to retaliate in the worst cases. The framework recommends organisations of all sizes have four fundamental approaches for cyber resilience. It includes the following:
Manage and protect
The first element of the cyber resilience framework involves managing and protecting critical infrastructure. Your business must have an appropriate security management program/strategy that acts as first-line security for the overall information system and protect your application and/or network against unauthorised access.
It involves reducing the risk associated with IT infrastructure with malware protection, information security policies, data encryption, employees’ awareness training, identity and access control policies, supply chain risk management, physical security, patch management, business intellectual property security, etc.
Identify and detect
The second element of the cyber resilience framework pushes businesses to have an up-to-date information system monitoring solution to identify and detect suspicious activities and threats targeting critical assets. Therefore, you must implement a security monitoring solution or use tools to detect events, unauthorised accesses actively, and other cyber incidents to eliminate the risk of potential damage or attack.
Respond and recover
The cyber resilience framework’s third element emphasises having an incident response plan in advance so, in case of any security control failure, human error, natural disaster, or detection of a breach, your business operations do not suffer.
Backups, business continuity management plan, incident response management, and policies are a key measure of cyber resilience that supports businesses in getting back the stability as quickly as possible and ensuring the timely return to regular efforts.
Govern and assure
The fourth and final element of the cyber resilience framework is to ensure that your overall business security complies with and validates the relevant regulatory bodies’ requirements and company policies.
In addition, you must align your organisation objective with the results of a comprehensive internal audit and risk management program to assure that data protection, and data privacy is maintained, critical assets and business security are improved continuously, and risks are mitigated promptly.
Key steps to achieve cyber resilience
Building cyber resilience into business strategy is not a hard and fast rule. However, you can achieve resilience with the following key steps.
Identify and protect critical assets
Business networks are interconnected. To protect your assets, it is important to have a clear picture of your critical assets, where your critical data are stored, and what data would likely be of interest to cyber criminals and can be at risk. Create an inventory of hardware and software assets/systems, securely configure them, implement strict access control mechanisms for data protection, data privacy, and shield against unauthentic and unauthorised access and privileges
Manage your third-party products and services
Today, businesses are heavily dependent on third-party products and service providers for their day to day operations. This dependency worked as a catalyst in supply chain attacks. In the past few months, the cyber security industry has witnessed multiple cyber incidents due to supply chain attacks. You must choose trusted vendors or suppliers who follow security best practices and comply with your enterprise requirements and regulations. You must monitor you third-parties and have third-party risk management policies and program in place to protect and respond to the risk your supply chain might impose to your business.
Backup is the essential thing in cyber resilience, as it helps businesses stand on the ground in several cyber incidents such as ransomware, data loss, etc. Regular backup is the key to resilience since it contributes to maintaining good cyber hygiene in every event, not just in a security breach or attack.
Plan incident recovery
There is no one vaccine that makes you business immune to data breaches; this is why you should always be prepared to combat cyber security attacks. An incident recovery plan is a primary cyber resilience thing that every business (SMB and large enterprise) must have to reduce the attack impact and recover from the security incident with minimum downtime to business.
You can prepare your recovery plan accordingly for each scenario after analysing your business capabilities, such as how long an organisation can withstand any attack without compromising the business operation, how would the organisation recover if it gets affected by a ransomware attack or any natural disaster, what would your organisation do if the data get corrupted, loss or theft, etc.
Appoint security professionals and create a security culture
Unskilled individuals can bring your security measurements down to the knees instead of upgrading them. Thus, it is essential to get an experienced and dedicated security professional to identify, monitor, detect, and handle security incidents and investigate the event efficiently and promptly to mitigate the risk wherever it breathes.
With skilled technical individuals, security awareness of non-technical staff is also necessary to have in order to maintain the cyber security culture to the overall organisation because your high-end security solutions and measures are of no use if your average employee or staff lacks appropriate cyber resilience and security awareness.
Conduct a cyber security assessment
Regular cyber security assessment plays an essential role in cyber resilience. Security assessments highlight compromised and/or vulnerable endpoints and systems, missing security measures, threats within the network, application, codes, etc. and helps to improve the overall cyber hygiene.
How can you test cyber resilience?
In order to be resilient in cyber espionage or natural incident, you must test your overall IT environment to verify whether your cyber security strategy is prepared enough to survive, encounter, and respond to an accident.
Testing your capability prior to any actual event significantly contribute to discovering glitches, weak areas, real-time response abilities, the effectiveness of present security measures, and helps to score your cyber resilience. You can test your business resilience through the following approaches:
Verify placed security countermeasure
The foundation of cyber resilience is to have appropriate countermeasures in place that blocks threats from targeting you. To test your security posture, you have to guarantee that you have required security in every corner of your digital sphere. SEIM solutions, firewalls, anti-virus and anti-malware products are among those security checks that help detect, deter and react to threats by identifying, restricting and eliminating the risk before it can be exploited.
So, one of the most important things that you must test is verifying the effectiveness of all security controls with continuous monitoring and auditing of the events and logs.
Test your live environment
Once you have all preventive, detective, and corrective security controls, it is essential for you to test and audit your environment from an attacker perspective. Red team engagement is the most optimal solution to examine your live environment.
With the intelligence-led red team cyber security exercise, you can simulate a real attack campaign to assess your organisation’s defensive controls and analyse your in-house security team, products, processes abilities to detect and respond to the launched event.
In this live red teaming testing, you can identify the main objectives and risks that would affect your organisation if an actual attacker targets you. Similarly, you can estimate your organisation’s preparedness in real-world attacks and have a clear insight into the attack surface and the loopholes that attackers can target.
Last but not least, with the derived examination results, you can evaluate your invested cyber security solutions and/or product, such as whether the implemented controls are sufficient enough or you need to build or a buy new cyber security investment in your organisation.
Attack surface monitoring
Monitor your real-time environment to detect flaws during and outside the working or testing hours. Doing so significantly helps in analysing and reducing the attack surface, and in circumstances where minimising the attack surface is difficult, it supports detecting and restricting the attack vector from penetrating the IT environment.
Get in touch to discuss your security or cyber resilience concerns. We know how essential it is for any business to stay ready against constantly evolving cyber threats and attack trends. Whether it is attack surface monitoring, red team engagement, technical risk advisory or simply managed security services, we can help you with your cyber resilience objectives.
Our cyber security services have all the right ingredients to make your business strong and hold on the ground. Call us today, and we will help align your business objectives balancing the cyber resilience strategy.
Shahrukh, is a passionate cyber security analyst and researcher who loves to write technical blogs on different cyber security topics. He holds a Masters degree in Information Security, an OSCP and has a strong technical skillset in offensive security.